Proof Greenwich Playhouse 8 May


Picture from Sell A Door Facebook page

In terms of numbers, I think there were nine people in the audience so we outnumbered the four actors easily enough.

The idea of the the play is that Catherine’s mad-and-brilliant maths professor dad has died, after she has sacrificed much of her youth and her own studies to caring for him, and there remain what may or may not be important results.  We have a conflict with her sister Claire who is rather the Martha to her Mary and Harold her father’s former student, who may be her saviour and love interest, if not exactly Prince Hal.

I had the feeling that the idea of the thing was good, but it was spoiled some imprecise execution.  The old professor and his discoveries were copied from John Nash, but about twenty years too late.  As played here by Marcus Taylor, he was not believably schizophrenic–more like your typical academic–and Holly Easterbrook as his allegedly depressed daughter was extremely beautiful (can’t be helped!) but also uniformly well-turned out.  The only one to show signs of recognisable mental distress was Amy Burke as Claire-trying-to-hold-it all-together.

So these complaints may be a bit pedantic, and no doubt a Chicagoan would have laughed at the accents while they seemed fine to me.  But if you’re going to flog old mathematical jokes like 1729 it’s a pity to ignore thew one about the extrovert mathematician staring at your shoes when he talks to you, which would have given a useful clue here.

Still, there were some instances of agreeably snappy dialogue:

HAL: Some friends of mine are in this band – they’re playing at a bar up on Diversity, probably go on around 2, 2:30, I said I would be there.


HAL: They’re all in the math department. They’re really great. They have this good song it’s called “I.” Lower case I. They just stand there and don’t play anything for three minutes.

KATHERINE: Imaginary number.

HAL: Math joke. You see why they are way down the bill (laughter).

KATHERINE: A long drive to see some nerds in a band.

HAL: God, I thought when people say that it’s not that long a drive.

KATHERINE: So they are nerds.

HAL: They are raging geeks but they are geeks that, you know, can dress themselves (laughter) — hold down a job at major universities. Some of them have switched from glasses to contacts. Play sports. They play in a band. In that sense they make you question the whole set of terms, geek, nerd, dweeb, Dilbert, paste eater.

And overall I enjoyed the performance:  although the play was horribly and multiply derivative, it was also (paradoxically) about something different, and I agreed with the message even if on this occasion the muck that the flower grew out of wasn’t very mucky.

I should have pointed out that Dan Cohen did very well as the younger (grad student) and older (colleague) Harold Dobbs.

Definitely worth a visit!

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