PROOF, Goodman Theatre. David Auburn’s 2001 Pulitzer-winning play opens on the 25th birthday of Catherine, daughter of a schizophrenic former University of Chicago mathematics professor who revolutionized his field, then declined into dementia. She’s put her own life on hold to care for him and now, on the eve of his funeral, must face the possibility that she’s inherited his illness as well as his genius. Given the persistent, earnest denials of the lesser minds surrounding her, Catherine–her father’s favorite and the keeper of his flame–almost seems to covet the risk of mental illness as a posthumous connection to him.
Universal in its appeal, Proof has a distinct Hyde Park resonance. David Swayze’s pitch-perfect set captures a big, shabby house complete with graying paint and a back porch littered with cadaverous potted plants and old newspapers. When the characters make plans to celebrate, it’s on the city’s “north side”: Chinatown.
Karen Aldridge as the brilliant, depressed Catherine dominates Chuck Smith’s staging. Her hair in spiky twists, she has a beauty seemingly driven by her intellect and deftly communicates the exasperation of someone enticed into letting down her guard only to be humiliated.