Bway Smash Proof Will Close Jan. 5, 2003; Regional Stagings Multiply

News   Bway Smash Proof Will Close Jan. 5, 2003; Regional Stagings Multiply David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, Proof, will close Jan. 5, 2003, after 16 previews and 918 performances at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the producers announced Oct. 8.

David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, Proof, will close Jan. 5, 2003, after 16 previews and 918 performances at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the producers announced Oct. 8.

By the time the critically-embraced moneymaker closes, it will be the longest-running play Broadway has seen in 20 years (since Torch Song Trilogy) and one of the most award-nominated. When it bowed on Broadway in 2000, the entire original cast of four was nominated for 2001 Tonys: Mary-Louise Parker, Johanna Day, Ben Shenkman and Larry Bryggman. Parker took home the Tony for playing Catherine, the fragile daughter of a math genius (Bryggman) who may or may not have inherited her father's gifts — and his mental illness.

Reports indicate that Take Me Out, the well reviewed play by Richard Greenberg, now at Off Broadway's Public Theater, may move into the Kerr come spring, but there has been no official announcement about a Broadway berth for the baseball-themed work.

Proof has been celebrated by critics and audiences as a romance, a drama of splintered family dynamics and a mystery. Despite the changes in casting over the years (Jennifer Jason Leigh took over as Catherine in 2001, and Anne Heche joined last July and continues), crowds still gasp at the Act One curtain line.

The current company — sticking it out through the New Year — includes Stephen Kunken as Hal, a math geek with a crush on Catherine; Len Cariou as Catherine's father, Robert; and Kate Jennings Grant as Claire, Catherine's concerned sister. Business is still quite respectable for the play. The week of Sept. 30-Oct. 6, the production grossed $218,951, making for an average of 63.6 percent of capacity. Several months into the Broadway run, the play had made its investment back. It also made the unknown Auburn rich, and the producers richer.

Director Daniel Sullivan, who helmed from the show's beginning at Stage I at Manhattan Theatre Club, was hands-on throughout the run. He also staged the national tour, which featured Kunken as Hal. Sullivan won a Tony Award for his work.

Proof played 79 performances at Manhattan Theatre Club beginning May 23, 2000.

The previous 2001-02 Broadway cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Josh Hamilton, Patrick Tovatt and Seana Kofoed, exited the show June 30 following performances since Sept. 14, 2001.

Neil Patrick Harris played Hal to Heche's Catherine over the summer, to Oct. 6. The London staging starred Gwyneth Paltrow. Auburn himself directed a regional production of the play at the Coconut Grove Playhouse near Miami.

The back porch, University of Chicago neighborhood set design is by John Lee Beatty, costumes are by Jess Goldstein, lighting is by Pat Collins, and original music and sound design are by John Gromada.

The Proof national tour, led by Chelsea Altman and Robert Foxworth, with Stephen Kunken and Tasha Lawrence, ended June 23 at the Auditorium Theatre in Denver. Regional theatres are already starting to produce resident productions of the work, and it's the most produced script in regional theatres in 2001-02, and is expected to be one of the most-produced plays of the decade. (The fact that there's one set and a cast of four helps.)

Proof is produced on Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, artistic director; Barry Grove, Executive Producer), Roger Berlind, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Jujamcyn Theatres, Ostar Enterprises, Inc., Daryl Roth and Stuart Thompson.

The Walter Kerr Theatre is at 219 W. 48th Street. Tickets are $24-$75. For information, call (212) 239-6200.