Arts & Entertainment

‘Proof’ Examines Complicated Family Relationships

Catherine, Claire and Hal discuss the proof on the back porch of Robert’s old home (Courtesy photo).

NOVA Nightsky Theater closed out its run of David Auburn’s “Proof” this weekend and it might be my favorite production of theirs yet.


According to an update on their website, “Ward Kay, our Artistic Director, chose ‘Proof’ for this season because he is a math guy and has always been fascinated by the story that ‘Proof’ tells. It’s a play with Math geniuses and numbers, but it’s not really a play about math. It’s a play about family, love, and how mental illness can affect your relationships, your genius, and how you love. Everyone should see this show, even those that hate math.” And, as someone who hates math, I couldn’t agree more.


This wasn’t a show I had any familiarity with but immediately found myself drawn in to. As someone who has dealt with mental health struggles many times before, I was incredibly interested in Catherine’s character as she deals with her own mental health issues while taking care of her father then going through the grieving process.


Set in the 1980s, the story follows Catherine, a mathematical genius who puts aside her education in order to take care of her father as he suffers through his own mental illness and passes away. In his youth, her father, Robert, played by Kevin Dykstra, made groundbreaking work in the mathematics field but became unable to work as he descended deeper into delusion.


Co-founder and producer of NOVA Nightsky, Jaclyn Robertson, took the stage again for the first time since the company’s production of “Picnic” last year. Her role as Catherine in “Proof” is very different from the previous play and shows her range as an actor.


During the five years of his illness, Robert kept many notebooks, most of which contained nothing of importance. However, one of his students, Hal, played by Adam Ressa, decides to go through each of them to see if there is anything that may be of value.


Catherine points Hal in the direction of a locked drawer containing an additional notebook and inside he finds a very important proof. Catherine’s sister, Claire, played by Caroline Peterson, asks where she found it. Catherine explains that she didn’t find the notebook, she wrote the proof. Neither Claire nor Hal believe she could have come up with the groundbreaking proof on her own considering her own mental health struggles and lack of education since she left college to take care of her father.


Catherine has no way to prove she is the author as the handwriting is eerily similar to that of her late father. With no one to back her up, she ends up in a downward spiral to a depression that leaves her unable to get out of the bed for days and Claire decides to take her back to New York in order to take care of her. Hal takes the notebook to look over with his colleagues and comes rushing back to the house to report his findings before the pair leave to get on their plane. He tells Catherine that he now believes she had to be the one to write it and that there were no errors.


This play paints an incredibly accurate picture of the struggles of depression and other forms of mental illness. It tells the story of family, reconnecting and love in a beautiful way.


“Proof” closed out last weekend but NOVA Nightsky will be back again next month with a production of “The American Plan” by Richard Greenberg. For more information about the play and to purchase tickets, visit novanightskytheater.com and sign up for email updates.