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The ‘Proof’ is at DPAC

Marielle Hampe | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whether you love theatre or instead enthusiastically prefer science, the Department of Film, Television and Theatre’s production of “Proof” appeals to everyone. In “Proof,” Catherine, the daughter of a brilliant but mentally disturbed mathematician, questions whether she is also becoming insane.

When Catherine’s father dies, one of his former students, Hal, searches through his papers in hopes of discovering a unique mathematics proof. “Proof” explores the bounds of mathematics, love, ambition and madness as Hal and Catherine discover themselves through a mathematical proof.

“Proof” is directed by professor Cheryl Turski. Senior Ryan Belock plays Hal and freshman Ashley Lawrence plays Catherine. “Proof” was selected over a year ago by the Department of Film, Television and Theatre as an ongoing effort to connect science with theater.

“This show is great for Notre Dame,” Turski said. “Students will easily be able to identify with the characters on stage because the characters are hardworking, highly intelligent students trying to make their way in a university atmosphere.”

“In college you learn so much about yourself,” Belock said.

“You come from high school and everything just explodes.

“The action of ‘Proof’ occurs around the University of Chicago campus, and we did a lot of table work talking about the differences between the atmosphere of the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. The University of Chicago campus seems to be a more competitive atmosphere, and this helped us to understand the pressure

Hal felt trying to make a big mathematical discovery.”

“Catherine is a socially awkward genius who is afraid she is going insane and who in the play seems selfish, but I think she is selfless,” Lawrence said. “She stopped going to college so she could take care of her father, and her mathematical proof helps to make up for that loss.

“She has a lot of emotion in what she says. To portray her, I tried to find things comparable to not only Catherine’s emotional loss of the death of her father, but also the feeling of achieving a world-changing proof.”

Catherine appears emotionally detached until Hal enters her life. “Hal is an intelligent, semi-hip young adult trying to find his place with high achieving mathematicians. He is an easy-going guy who is sometimes arrogant,” Belock said of his character.

Although “Proof” involves suffering and loss, it goes beyond that and explores other human emotions.

“The reception after Catherine’s father’s funeral is one of the livelier, more positive scenes. This scene reflects real-life awkwardness, and it’s the first time the audience gets to see the relationship start to develop between Catherine and Hal. In a show touching on more emotional issues, the after-funeral party is ironically the most comic scene in the show,” Belock said.

Once Catherine sets out to prove that she is the author of a mathematical proof discovered in one of her father’s notebooks, Hal and Catherine’s friendship becomes more uncertain. Through a variety of emotions and intimate connections with the four main characters, “Proof” proves it is a play about more than mathematical proofs. The play explores the proof required to trust or love someone and the necessity of believing in your own capabilities.

Contact Marielle Hampe at mhampe@nd.edu