Clicking the link above will bring you to the New York Times review of David Auburn's Proof, now a film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. The review is unkind. Some might say, and accurately, that plays do not usually translate that effectively into films. And that's almost always true. My plays would make horrible films.
But some of this is accurate either way. I have never particularly been a fan of this play, and I think it speaks to the state of contemporary playwrighting that it is and was so heralded.
I saw the Broadway version of Proof after it had already won it's Pulitzer, with an understudy, a few years ago, with my Mother in tow. She liked it.
Productions of Proof, since then and probably earlier, are now staples of the regional theatre circuit. I have 2 actress friends that I can think of that have performed the leading role in Equity roles; and I'm sure there are far, far more happy actresses, actively not chewing the scenery in the mopey role as Catherine.
Obviously, Proof provides two top notch actresses the opportunity to be down in front, acting their hearts out, in a Pulitizer Prize winning, Tony Award winning, honest to goodness play. They also get to use the men, for once, as drapery. Surely there's something about that sort of play that's needed in an art that is infused with thousands of talented women, and roles for about One of them in any given play. So I see why Proof is so often produced, in this way. It's a small market for great women roles in well-regarded plays.
Proof is also entertaining, because it's a love story. Sure, there's some hoopla about math, but it never really factors into the drama the way Chaos Theory factors into Stoppard's Arcadia. There's also a twist about Catherine's father being a ghost, which is all well and good.
But if you think about plays from Albee, Mamet, Miller, O'Neill; they put Proof in high contrast. This play is light as a feather, stylistically inert and its subject is the ennui of a white, pretty genius. And the reason that our characters are mathmeticians is to ensure the title is a pun. I'm not saying that this play is incompetent, unwatchable or unentertaining. It's just not what I assumed would win a Pulitzer. A playwrighting award in Wisconsin maybe. But not the Pulitizer.
Who are the Albee's, Mamets, Millers, and O'Neills of today? When David Auburn wins the Pulitzer Prize with Proof, are the pickings so slim? I know that this seems silly to bring up so many years later. I'll use the film as my excuse. It's my blog, after all.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.