THERE is something thrilling about discovering a new playwright — particularly a young, contemporary one — and this elegant production gave its audience such an opportunity.
David Auburn was born in Chicago in 1970 and this is where the action is set. Catherine, a brilliant 25-year-old mathematician, has grown world-weary after caring for her equally brilliant but demented father, Robert.
She is spiky and sarcastic, has no friends or career, and resists all attempts from her well-meaning but control-freak sister Claire to leave the claustrophobia of the family home after their father’s death. When Hal, a former student of his, finds a ground-breaking mathematical proof in Robert’s study the question is: who wrote it? Is it the swansong of an elderly genius or the debut of an exciting and undiscovered natural talent?
Like all good, tightly-written drama, this play — which ran on Broadway until 2003 — unleashes a whirlwind of ideas. The theme that genius peaks before the mid-twenties is explored in depth, and the haunting question of whether a woman is equally as capable of creative scientific thinking as a man is also posed.
But at the core of this play is the double meaning of its title. Hal has fallen in love with Catherine, but that love is not strong enough for him to believe that she wrote the paper. He needs proof — which raises all kinds of issues about honesty and trust in human relationships.