David Auburn’s absorbing psychological mystery-cum-romantic drama, seen here in a touring edition of the Tony-winning Broadway production, is set in the sprawling, run-down Hyde Park home of a brilliant but mentally ill University of Chicago math guru, Robert, and his 25-year-old daughter and caregiver, Catherine. She has inherited some of her dad’s intellect but also some of his instability; how much of each is uncertain, which terrifies Catherine as she contemplates her future following Robert’s death. Should she move to New York, where her kindly but overprotective sister can keep an eye on her? Or stay in Hyde Park, where she’s just begun a romantic relationship with one of Robert’s students? The situation is complicated by the discovery of a potentially groundbreaking (and reputation-making) document–a fiendishly complicated mathematical theory (i.e., a proof) scrawled in a collegiate composition book. The question of its authorship drives the play’s second act. But like the atomic formulas Paul Newman scribbles on a chalkboard in Alfred Hitchcock’s cold war thriller Torn Curtain, the proof is a McGuffin–an ultimately irrelevant plot device on which Auburn has hung a compassionate exploration of human relationships, in which people strive vainly for, yes, proof of other people’s feelings and integrity, when what matters is trust. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, Proof features a vivid, mercurial performance by Chelsea Altman as the eccentric, vulnerable, manic-depressive Catherine. Strong support is provided by Robert Foxworth as Robert, Tasha Lawrence as the sister, and Stephen Kunken as the boyfriend-in-the-making, a onetime wunderkind resigned to being merely intelligent in an arena ruled by geniuses. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 312-902-1400. Through March 31: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 and 7:30 PM. Then April 2-7: Tuesday, 7:30 PM; Wednesday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $22-$65. The show on Sunday, April 7, is sign interpreted.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Bennon.