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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Proof



David Auburn's Tony and Pulitzer Prize drama Proof has arrived at the Curran Theatre as the first drama in the 2001-2002 Best of Broadway season. Proof was presented at the Walter Kerr Theatre in November 2000 with Tony winner Mary Louise Parker, Larry Bryggman, Johanna Day and Ben Shenkman. It is on my list of best plays from the 2000 season, and it was pleasure to see the drama again with a new cast.

Proof is an expertly constructed, concentrated, intelligently written play, and the domestic drama has not lost any of its power in this production. There have been many plays during the past few years based on mathematic formulas and Proof ranks with the best of them. The show contains elements of both comedy and drama. There are some wonderful dramatic scenes between the daughter and the father in the second act and they hold your attention.

The family drama takes place on the back porch of the run down home of Catherine in a suburb of Chicago. The 25 year-old put her college education on hold to care for her dying father who was a great mathematics teacher before he had a nervous breakdown. The presentation opens at the time of the death of the father. He left dozens of notebooks about mathematical formulas, and a pushy graduate student named Hal wants to discover if these notebooks are devoted to mathematics or just plain madness.

One of the notebooks turns out to contain a very important mathematical proof. The big question is, who wrote the proof? This ends act one and there were several gasps from the audience in the Curran on opening night.

Scenes of Catherine's immediate past with her father are not revealed until the play's second half where the shifting of past and present is never gimmicky but always illuminating. The drama becomes a mathematical mystery play which I will leave for persons to discover for themselves. The second act contains many beautiful dramatic scenes between Catherine, her father, and her sister. Each scene is a gem and the directing by Daniel Sullivan is exceptional.

Chelsea Altman plays Catherine and, athough she is excellent in the role as a rebel, she does not have the edge of Ms. Parker in the original production. Also, in some scenes she speaks at too rapid a pace with a monotone high pitched voice. When she slows down the speech a bit, her banter with her father is right on the mark.

Robert Foxworth and he is superb in the role of Catherine's father. His range from being droll to very angry is skillful. His scenes with Catherine show that the two have a mutual understanding. Stephen Kunken, who played the role on Broadway, is excellent as the young and nerdy but well meaning student, Hal. Both he and Tasha Lawrence, as Catherine's hyper organized career minded sister, give great support to Proof.

John Lee Beatty's set is the same as the New York set and does much to reinforce the gritty realism of the text. It is still an interesting well constructed play, expertly acted and directed and I recommend it.

Proof runs at the Curran Theatre through December 23. Tickets are $27 - $67 and are available at the Orpheum Box Office, 1192 Market Street at Hyde and 8th; through Ticketmaster (415)512-7770; at all ticketmaster locations; and at ticketmaster.com. For groups of 20 or more called (415)551-2020. Coming next to Best of Broadway will be Copenhagen with Len Cariou, Mariette Hartley, Hank Stratton. It starts on January 8th at the Curran. Kiss Me Kate comes to the Orpheuim starting February 5th with Rex Smith and Rachel York.




Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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