By Susan Wallner
State of the Arts
This time last year, Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce had just begun their starring roles in a new comedy commissioned by the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike went on to a run at Lincoln Center and then to Broadway, where it won the 2013 Tony for Best Play, as well as nominations for Best Actor, Actress, Featured Actor, Featured Actress and Directing. Joining playwright Christopher Durang at the Tony Awards to accept the honor was the producer, McCarter’s Artistic Director Emily Mann.To begin McCarter’s 2013-14 season, Mann has chosen another Tony-winner for Best Play. Proof by David Auburn won the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2001.
“It’s an actor’s dream come true,” says Mann, who is directing the play. She is approaching Proof as an ensemble piece for the actors, who are all familiar from film, television and the stage. Kristen Bush stars as Catherine, the daughter of a genius mathematician who may or may not have inherited her father’s gift. Jessica Dickey plays her more practical, successful sister Claire. Michael Siberry plays their math professor father and Michael Braun is a young mathematician who falls in love with Catherine.
“It really is a four-person play,” says Mann. “It was, I think, in the Broadway premiere, very much Mary Louise Parker’s play, and it became looked at in the biz as kind of a star vehicle. In fact, all four roles are astoundingly good.”
A special “sneak peek” of the new McCarter Theatre performance Proof.
Proof is a love story, a whodunit and a witty family drama. It’s also a play about math. “I hated math, I was bad at it,” says Mann. But the math being talked about in this play, she points out, “is not arithmetic.” Instead, it’s higher, abstract math that exists on the level of ideas.
Mann compares the creation of a mathematical proof to the writing of a poem. For the curious, there’s a “Mostly Math” glossary on the McCarter’s website where you can read about the historical figure Sophie Germain, an 18th century French mathematician and one of the first women to contribute to the field. Or, learn the definition of an “elegant proof” — it’s one that “mathematicians consider especially ingenious and short.”
However, proficiency in math is not required to understand or enjoy the production. “Proof is such a popular play,” says Mann. “People love the play. People who saw it 13 years ago want to come back and see it again, and that’s really exciting.”
Proof by David Auburn, directed by Emily Mann, opens Sept. 12 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, where it runs through Oct. 6. For tickets and to find out more about the 2013-14 season, visit www.mccarter.org.
Susan Wallner talked to director Emily Mann about Proof on The Jersey Arts Podcast.