David Auburn’s Proof: A review by Jessi Kaur

April 26, 2019     / / / /

Naatak’s rendition of Proof, a Pulitzer prize winning play by David Auburn, was a gripping performance.

On the surface Proof is about the authorship of a mathematical proof. Twenty-five year old Catherine has spent years caring for her father Robert, a brilliant mathematician whose life in his late twenties began a downward spiral to dementia. The play opens with an imaginary tryst between Catherine and Robert who has just passed away. The tension between father and daughter sets the tone for the relationship dynamics which is at the heart of the play. During his prolonged illness Robert who continued his job as a professor at University of Chicago hovered between lucidity and incoherence. The question that looms with grave uncertainty is whether during a year of remission he left behind proof of a ground breaking mathematical equation that will open new frontiers in the cosmos.

But that’s not all. Proof is highly nuanced. The relationship between Catherine and her well-poised sister Clair who flies in to attend her father’s funeral is in question as much as the proof of the mathematical equation. Is Clair a caring, benevolent sibling, or a manipulative woman who puts her father’s house up for sale without notifying Catherine for whom it had been home? Catherine, the dutiful daughter is also resentful of the years she gave up when she dropped out of school to provide home care for her father, but would he have been better off in a professional facility as Clair suggested? The nascent relationship between Catherine and Hal, an ardent math student of Robert who wants to pry through his notebooks to look for any bursts of brilliance the professor exhibited, also falls under a cloud of doubt. Does he love her or was he just using her? Is Catherine instable or just exhausted? Did she inherit her father’s brilliance along with his disease? Sometimes the entire body of evidence is not proof enough.

Naatak’s Proof is as taut as the tensions between the characters of the play. Rinki Suri as Catherine is superb. She delivers a pitch perfect performance in a dialog heavy role. Look out for this young actress who is going places. Mukund Marathe as Robert and Arjun Chemparathy as Hal do justice to their roles. Both give authentic performances, one as an unraveling genius and the other as a doubting mathematician and lover. Kamla Subramaniam as the sophisticated older sister delivers an aptly understated performance. Her elegance and sophistication, as also her composed demeanor is in stark contrast to the fragile and often furious Catherine. Kudos to Devika Ashok, the Director; the performances of the cast are proof that she was in perfect command. The minimalist set and the cozy seating of UpClose in the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts make the experience of Proof more intimate.

You don’t have to be a math major to enjoy this brilliant play.