Proof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn that is a Broadway hit and a prime candidate for a Best Play Tony Award in June, will have a national tour in the coming season.
At least one out-of-town theatre — the Fisher Theatre in Detroit — has announced to subscribers that the four-character mystery about a math genius, his troubled daughter and the discovery of a groundbreaking math proof found in their home, will visit in 2002. Dates in Detroit are April 23-May 12, 2002, though as of April 19 the New York producers have not officially announced a national tour for the four-character hit. Touring dates are always subject to change. A booking at San Francisco's Curran Theatre in late 2001 has also been announced.
Proof is the sort of play that touring houses and nonprofit theatres jump onto — an award-winning work that is intimate and affordable to mount (one-set, four actors), with a potential for star casting.
The drama now at the Walter Kerr Theatre is one of the major hits of the 2000-2001 Broadway season. Director Daniel Sullivan's staging starring Mary-Louise Parker has made its investment back and is a sure thing for a Best Play Tony Award nomination. The work concerns the anguished daughter of a University of Chicago math genius and the discovery of rare math proof among his papers in the home they share.
One of the major ideas in the play is the notion of "legacy" — how the gifts and the burdens of genius are passed on.
Did Juilliard playwriting grad Auburn think in terms of "theme" when writing Proof?
"I really just thought in terms of plot the first time through, trying to get the story to make sense and be clear," the Old Auburn said, adding that thematic ideas get richer when you go through it again, and when actors are added to the mix.
Auburn said people are embracing the play because "everyone has parents" and "everyone aspires to be like them in some ways, and have concerns about other traits they may [inherit]."
The "fear and hope" audiences have about their parents and the legacy they pass on fuels the play, Auburn agreed. The math professor, Robert, played by Larry Bryggman, is slowly deteriorating in the play, and Mary-Louise Parker's character, the daughter, Catherine, has fears about how he is crumbling. Will she crumble, too?
The now-famous Act One curtain line of the play, at which audiences consistently gasp, was there from the first draft, Auburn said. He knew the discovery of the proof would be the event that ended the first act. And that line? At the time, Auburn said, "This is shameless, but I can fix it later." It stayed.
Does he mind that the play comes off as a ripping good mystery?
"I really wanted to write something that would be involving on a narrative level," he said. "That people want to know what happens next is great. The pace of it and the energy is [the work of] the cast and Dan Sullivan. The script didn't really change [in rehearsal]. The decision to have a very concrete detailed [setting], is Dan and [designer] John Lee Beatty. In the script it just says 'a porch.'"
The play opened at the Kerr Oct. 24, 2000, after a summer 2000 run at Manhattan Theatre Club, where audiences and critics embraced the new American play. Between Off-Broadway and Broadway, Auburn won the Joseph Kesselring playwriting prize.
Johanna Day, Ben Shenkman and Larry Bryggman star, with Mary-Louise Parker. All four originated the roles at MTC.
Proof tickets are $70 and can be purchased through Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, or online at www.ProofonBroadway.com.