Pittsburgh is the most recent stop for the tour of David Auburn's play, Proof. The highly lauded show (multiple Tony Awards, including Best Play; Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Drama Desk; Lucille Lortel Awards; Outer Critics Circle Award; NY Drama Critics Award; Drama League Award and more) is an uncomplicated character study. The characters are so interesting, the middling plot seems to be more substantial than it is.
The story is quite simple. Catherine's father, a legendary mathematics genius, has recently died. In addition to normal grief, Catherine must deal with the legacy he has left her - a mind for mathematics, but possibly an unstable mind. Her father (Robert) hit his peak young, then suffered from mental illness until his death. Catherine knows she has inherited Robert's amazing mind, but has she inherited a weakness of the mind as well? Catherine's sister arrives to attend the funeral and to "take care of things," including her little sister. The fourth character in the piece is Hal, a student of Robert's, who is going through his professor's notebooks looking for inspiration and a remnant of the genius of his teacher.
Chelsea Altman plays Catherine in this tour version of Proof. Catherine is a paradoxical character. She is a loner, but desperately needs someone to understand her. She is very afraid to go on with her life because of the fate she sees ahead when she looks back at life with her father. Altman handles the quirkiness of this role very well. Perhaps Catherine should be a little less animated, more monotone, but Altman is putting her own stamp on this character and overall it works. Playing Robert, in flashbacks and imagined visits, is Robert Foxworth. He is quite good and has a remarkable chemistry with Altman. The only distraction is that he seemed to be trying to "act old" with slow movement and a change in his voice. It's unnecessary - he's not an old man, but with Altman being one of the youngest Catherines (compared to those who have played the role on Broadway), he's plenty old enough to be her father.
The two supporting characters in this play serve many purposes. They each bring out aspects of Catherine's personality which are important to view, and each plays a part in Catherine's past and in her future. Tasha Lawrence as Catherine's sister Claire is superb in the role. She fully inhabits this character and makes every line count. Often a source of comic relief, Claire wants to take care of Catherine. She understands Catherine's fears and is willing to help Catherine cope with what they both assume is the inevitable - a mental breakdown for Catherine. Hal is the least explored character in Proof. Stephen Kunken does a good job with the part, being likeable as well as believable as a math geek.
It's amazing to look back on Proof after a viewing - not much really happened, but what a compelling and fascinating character work it is.
David Auburn's Proof closed in Pittsburgh on May 26. The tour moves on to Los Angeles and Denver.
Proof, presented in Pittsburgh by the Mellon Pittsburgh Broadway Series: The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Pittsburgh Symphony and Clear Channel Entertainment. Mellon Financial Corporation is the title sponsor of the Series. Director: Daniel Sullivan.