Season Select: Proof

Posted April 25, 2023

APT Web Hero 1500x600 Proof

For the final Season Select of the 2023 season, we're discovering the subtle genius of David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof.


By David Auburn

Directed by Brenda DeVita

Fast Facts

Playing: Touchstone Theatre | October 26 - November 19
Featuring: Kelsey Brennan, Nate Burger, David Daniel & Laura Rook
Genre: Contemporary Drama
Last Seen at APT: First time!
Go If You Liked: A Doll's House, Part 2 (2019), Arcadia (2016), Eurydice (2016)

Rarely does a play unfold as perfectly as Proof. A riveting spellbinder brought to life before our eyes – funny and heartbreaking and vastly relatable. And at its core, Catherine, a sharp-edged young woman who has anchored herself in place with familial obligations and the weight of her own genius. But not everything is outside of her control – there’s much of her future still to be written, if she only has the courage to pick up the pen. David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winner makes its debut in the Touchstone at last; a glorious close to this glorious season.

About Proof

David Auburn is a contemporary American playwright, screenwriter and creative. After attending the University of Chicago and earning his BA in English Literature, Auburn moved to New York City and enrolled in the prestigious Julliard School playwright program. Shortly after finishing the program, Skyscraper, Auburn’s first full-length play, premiered off-Broadway in 1997. In 2000, his second full-length work, Proof, won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Play in addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that same year.

According to Auburn, the critical and financial success of Proof was a surprise from the start. In fact, now famous moments from the script were used originally as placeholders rather than final edits. Auburn wasn’t looking for an instant hit when he started on Proof. Instead, he wanted to explore a more naturalistic style of writing than he had in his past works. The subsequent product obviously discovered an award-winning equation, touching on the complexities of family, legacy and just a bit of mathematics for good measure.

Since its premiere in 2000, Proof received a 2005 film adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hope Davis. It has also become a returning stand-out on the list of most produced plays across the nation over the last 20 years.

It's important to note that Proof is not just a story for math nerds. But, if you do happen to be a math nerd (there's at least a few of us out there), here are a few things to pique your interest about the show. Excuse us as we geek out.

Auburn's story follow Catherine, a young woman who has begrudgingly inherited the genius of her father, a University of Chicago mathematics professor, known for his contributions to the fields of game theory, algebraic geometry and nonlinear operator theory.

The proof part of Proof is derived from something a little more concrete. It's based on the mathematical theories surrounding the infinite nature of prime numbers (just check out Euclid’s Theorem), and the work that must be done to prove the theorem is true. The proof is the tangible work (ie blue notebook) that proves both ownership of the mathematical discovery, as well as the function of the theorem through direct methods.

Establishing what is real and what is only in your head, however, can be much more challenging.

Brenda DeVita says

I am of an opinion that Proof is a perfect play. It’s not just my opinion, David Auburn won the Pulitzer Prize for this play. But it is this perfectly unfolding mystery, which I am not going to give away in case you haven’t seen it. But it touches on so many things that affect us. The heavy burden of potential, and the expectation that accompanies that. The fear of failing, and how it can lock us in place and keep us from fulfilling our dreams. Or not, if we can summon the courage to break through it, and go out and live our lives. And it’s about mental illness in families, and how that affects everyone in its orbit. How it affects everyone differently. And the beautiful, complex, sometimes thorny relationship between fathers and daughters, and between sisters. Kelsey Brennan is playing Catherine, and Laura Rook is playing Claire, and the two of them are about as close to being real life sisters as you can be without being actually related. And David Daniel plays their father, and Nate Burger plays Charlie, one of his students. So it’s this tight knit group of actors who happen to be like family in real life, and that is going to contribute to this storytelling in untold and incredible ways. I can’t wait to get into the room with them and get to work.