Mary-Louise Parker has a look of emotional uncertainty in the artwork on the marquee of the Walter Kerr Theatre, where she stars as the grief-stricken daughter of a math genius in Proof, opening Oct. 24.
As the emotionally remote daughter of a brilliant professor, Parker doesn't know which way to turn — everything is uncertain. But nothing is uncertain about the way David Auburn's play has been received: After a summer run at Manahattan Theatre Club, where audiences and critics embraced the new American play, the warm drama moved to the Kerr for previews Oct. 10 with its Off-Broadway cast intact. Between Off-Broadway and Broadway, Auburn won the Joseph Kesselring playwriting prize. He also recently signed his first Hollywood screenwriting deal.
The play, which ran Off-Broadway May 23-July 30, will likely have crowds gasping — as they did at MTC — at the Act One curtain line. Daniel Sullivan recreates his MTC direction.
Set in Chicago, the play has Parker as secretive Catherine, who, after the death of her father, is visited by his ghost (Larry Bryggman), her upscale, critical sister (Johanna Day) and an awkward, unexpected suitor, a student of her father's (Ben Shenkman). The actors recreate their MTC work. The warm-hearted, mysterious world of the play was praised for being human and not trapping its audience in references to math and the title's enigmatic math proof. (There are several panel discussions about math proofs linked the the show, but don't let that scare you — the played is regarded as warm, humorous, accessible.)
Proof's march to commercial and critical success has been rapid and steady, and a Broadway move was expected soon after the Off Broadway opening; the show was virtually sold out after its May 23 opening at MTC's Stage I. It then extended to July 30.
Talk of Broadway culminated in Parker's decision to remain with the show instead of joining the Roundabout Theatre Company's scheduled fall production of O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms. The Roundabout subsequently scotched the O'Neill play.
MTC's commercial producing partners are Roger Berlind, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Jujamcyn Theatres, Ostar Enterprises, Inc., Daryl Roth and Stuart Thompson. Variety reported the transfer cost as $1.5 million.
Director Sullivan recently staged the New York City premiere of Spinning Into Butter for Lincoln Center Theatre and made a solid hit of Dinner With Friends at the Variety Arts Theatre Off-Broadway (he's also staging the Geffen Playhouse production in Los Angeles, which moves to Boston later this fall).
Act One of David Auburn's drama about the daughter of a math genius and his legacy, ends with a shocking sentence from star Parker, creating a palpable gasp from the audience and leaving them eager for Act Two.
Parker performed in New York stagings of Prelude to a Kiss, How I Learned To Drive and Communicating Doors and is known for her film acting in "Bullets Over Broadway," "Grand Canyon" and "Fried Green Tomatoes."
Bryggman, who plays Dr. John Dixon on TV's "As the World Turns," is seen frequently on New York stages. On Broadway, he's appeared in Prelude to a Kiss, Picnic, Richard III, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, and Off-Broadway he's acted in Bodies, Rest and Motion, New England, Dearly Beloved and Wolf Lullaby, among others.
Day appeared in New York's Vicks Boy, How I Learned to Drive, Oedipus (Blue Light Theatre Company) and more.
Shenkman's credits include Roundabout's The Deep Blue Sea, Baby Anger at Playwrights Horizons and Antony and Cleopatra at the Public Theater.
Playwright Auburn is a recent recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. His plays include Skyscraper (Greenwich House Theatre in 1997), Fifth Planet (New York Stage and Film), Miss You (HBO Comedy Arts Fest) and The Next Life (Juilliard School).
Proof will be one of two Manhattan Theatre Club productions to find a home on Broadway this autumn. The other is Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, also capitalized at $1.5 million, according to Variety. Allergist's began performances Oct. 11, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
Proof tickets are $70 and can be purchased through Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, or online at www.ProofonBroadway.com.
There a number of plays that go by the title of Proof, including a musical whose creators changed the title to Fermat's Last Tango. The York Theatre Company will stage the tuner this fall.