On the surface, David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning 2001 drama Proof is a sort of whodunit — or, "Who wrote a stunning mathematical proof that could revolutionize the way people perceive prime numbers?" a real careermaker in the world of mathematicians and science.
But, in truth, that's just the peg upon which the play is hung. It's really about human relationships, guilt, blame, fear and love.
The play opens Thursday at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill and continues weekends through Feb. 19.
In it, 20-something Catherine (Jessica Virginia, Velma in Chicago) has devoted her life to caring for her brilliant but mentally unstable father Robert (George Dwyer, Lancelot in Camelot), who was once the most promising scholar in the field of mathematics. For years, she has nurtured him as he veered from lucidity to lunacy, scribbling in his notebooks and talking math theory with his daughter in the back yard of their modest Chicago home near the university where Robert once taught.
Now Robert is gone, and Catherine thinks about what she has done with her life so far and what she will do with herself from now on. Her older sister Claire (Alyssa Stevenson) arrives from New York City, where she has built a successful career that has allowed her to financially support her father and sister. Claire is concerned that Catherine may have inherited their father's mental illness, and she wants Catherine to go back to New York with her and get some kind of treatment. But does Catherine really need treatment? Or is Claire trying to assuage some kind of guilt she feels for being so happy and carefree, seemingly at Catherine's expense?
Meanwhile, Robert's star pupil, Hal (Dan Brij- bag, HAMIs for Shadow Box and Camelot), volunteers to clean out his mentor's office. Catherine seems to develop a crush on the young but very appealing scholar and gives him the key to a secret drawer in her father's office. As Hal leaves one evening, a notebook falls out of his satchel — a notebook filled with scribblings that contain a revolutionary math proof that could be the making of Robert's reputation or of Hal's fledgling career.
So the question becomes: Who wrote that proof? And how can anyone prove who wrote the proof?
This question hovers, as Claire tries to figure out what to do about Catherine, if anything, and Catherine tries to come to terms with herself. The departed Robert eases in and out of these dilemmas, as Catherine either recalls portions of their relationship or experiences delusions that he is still there.
It's the kind of drama that leaves the audience with its own dilemmas: Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Who did the right thing? And what is the right thing?
Proof has been produced at several bay area theaters — American Stage, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Eight O'Clock Theatre in Largo, Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, the Salerno Theatre Company in Tampa, and, most recently, by the Hat Trick Theater company at the Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center in Hudson. But this is the first time a Pasco or Hernando theater has produced the play in its own venue.
Because of the subject matter and some adult themes, the play isn't recommended for children.