Who would have thought a play about math would be so enthralling? David Auburn apparently.
*** You’ve been warned***
A brief plot summery does not do the play justice but y’all need the context. Auburn’s Proof is about a young woman named Catherine, who’s mathematically genius father has just passed away. He suffered from a mental illness that caused him to be less and less lucid as time went on. After his death one of his old grad students, Hal, searches through his work to look for anything valuable. He and Catherine get into it and she calls the police. She changes her mind and hangs up on them but apparently it’s enough to have the police reach out to her sister Clair about Catherine’s mental state. Clair thinks Catherine needs help. But since Clair left all of their father’s care taking to Catherine, Catherine doesn’t take too kindly to this turn of events. In the middle of this show down, Hal comes in with a notebook that contains a proof no one has ever created before. But how could their father have written it? He didn’t, Catherine did. Or did she?
DUN DUN DUN.
First and foremost we should note the double proof here; is the proof real? Can Catherine prove she wrote it?
We should also recognize what great opposites the sisters make. Clair is living New York and about to get married and has been living her best life. While Catherine has been stuck in Chicago, unable to attend school because she’s been taking care of their sick father. That level of opposite becomes explosive in an argument.
Hal is a wild card. I’m still not sure how I feel about him. I want to like and believe him but he doesn’t make it easy.
And then we have the true master element of the story, sanity. Math is all about finding the one, correct answer that solves the problem. Most people who excel at math are logic driven thinkers, and to lose that to an illness you can’t control would be horrendous. Especially if you were a genius in your field like Catherine’s father.
Which is double heart breaking for Catherine. She’s just as smart, or smarter apparently, but she has to worry about the same mental illness effecting her and destroying her ability to think like she wants to.