Proof – Review of a play

Directed by Kashin Shetty, Proof played to a full house at India Habitat Centre on 26 April. Revolving around a genius mathematician who has lapsed into craziness, his devoted daughter who has sacrificed her entire life to tend for him, his young student who worships the ground he walks on and his other daughter, who has seemingly abandoned her family, Proof tells a heartrending story of love, faith and brilliance revolving around a mathematical proof that will catapult its owner into the limelight and certain success.


Proof revolves around the compelling and moving tale of Catherine, the brilliant daughter of a renowned mathematician, who has passed his days of glory and has sunk into madness. Catherine’s sacrifices to provide a warm and safe home for her father and to keep him from being institutionalised show how unconditional her love is. Harold Dobbs, ‘the protégé’ as Catherine refers to him, has far more faith in the genius of Catherine’s father than in his own talent. As Catherine’s father dies and she grapples with what do with her life after being a sole caregiver for five years, Harold aka Hal is convinced that some truly staggering work of genius has to lie in the 103 notebooks that her father scribbled on furiously. Thrown into this are Harold’s feelings for Catherine, which she rebuffs as she prefers to remain sunk into her world. Add to these circumstances comes Catherine’s sister Claire, back from New York, determined to sort things out in her brash way and set Catherine’s life straight. Relentlessly pursuing Catherine to come to New York, where she and her fiancé Mitch can look after her, she drives Catherine to complete exasperation with her capable approach. The final ignition in this explosive mix is the discovery of a mathematical proof that will alter the landscape of Mathematics as it is known. As Catherine claims ownership and both her love Hal and her sister Claire doubt her and her capabilities, the play’s title aptly refers to the proof that Catherine would have to offer, in order to be believed. Catherine’s fear of turning into her father and inheriting his madness further inhibit her from acting in her defence. Known so far only as the dutiful daughter, we see Catherine as a formidable mathematician in her own right.


A splendid performance by the cast of Proof, as the father, Akash Khurana, depicted the genius and the insanity brilliantly. As the two sisters, Preetika Chawla and Tahira Nath brought out their individual quirks and the fault lines in their distant relationship very well. As the young protégé Ali Fazal was nothing if not sincere as the student, earnest and youthful as the lover and completely rational as the mathematician. For those who missed the play and find the storyline compelling, Proof has also been made into a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal.


With the scenes ranging from stark and believably real as the sisters struggle to find common ground, bewitching as Hal and Catherine find love and companionship in each other, painful as Catherine struggles to deal with her father’s whims and fancies, the play combines superb direction and deals with a gamut of emotions to reach out the audience. A must watch for all theatre lovers.

Shruti Saxena