LEWISBURG - The fine and often blurry line between madness and genius is the theme of "Proof" set for a 7:30 p.m. performance Friday at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on the Bucknell University campus.
Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre, America's oldest theater - dating back to 1809 - is touring David Auburn's acclaimed play on college campuses this month and March.
Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize Prize for Drama and the Tony Award as "Best Play," the small-scope production with a cast of four has simple staging requirements, which the Weis Center stage can readily accommodate.
Although I have not seen the upcoming Walnut Street production, I vividly remember "Proof" after viewing other area versions - the Community Theatre League's in 2005 and Millbrook Playhouse's in 2006.
"Proof" tells the story of Catherine, who has given up college to care for her brilliant but mentally ill father.
One of the father's former students visits and falls for the introspective Catherine and, after the mathematician's death, discovers a notebook with a potentially groundbreaking proof.
There is little explanation of what the proof is, but as Act I ends, the real question is whose proof it is, as Catherine blurts out that she wrote it.
Act II plays like a mystery of whether Catherine could have written it. She wonders if the proof is as outstanding as claimed, fearful that she may have inherited her father's genius, as well as his predisposition to madness.
Although the plot is a bit thin, CTL and Millbrook's versions succeeded as their cast ably made their characters credible and funny, whether arguing with, supporting or impeding one another.
Most importantly, no potential theatergoer should be put off by the title or this storyline synopsis. "Proof" is never boring. On the contrary, this is a drama of a splintered family's dynamics, often funny and occasionally romantic. "Proof" also is a mystery, luminously exploring the true meaning of genius.
As the mystery and the storytelling veers from the present to the past and back again, there is a growing appreciation of this remarkable play's intelligent, cohesive structure.
The proof is in the seeing of "Proof" which will be reasonable entertaining for some and very entertaining for others.