The Proof is on Fire!

You know me as someone with an interest in the Boring Science Plays. I’ve even attempted (and failed) to write a few. Who can resist tales of genius, discovery, and madness? Not the stage! Just think of plays like Arcadia, Copenhagen, or Proof! I always did, though I knew two of those plays only by reputation. I am most familiar with Arcadia; you may know why. I tried to watch Copenhagen on PBS, but the teleplay bored my housemates out of their skulls. And I’d never seen Proof!

Until this weekend, that is. Saturday night Teresa and I saw the Princeton Summer Theater version of Proof. The production was fine, but I was shocked by the script. It’s a play about genius and insanity with no evidence of either. I’m serious. Proof may fill all the requirements of a Boring Science Play—it brings up questions of authorship, it explores scientific sex lives, and it sermonizes on “the fundamental importance of scientific progress,”—but after checking off these tasks it seems more interested in real estate transactions and dinner decisions.

That’s author David Auburn’s worst offense: nothing ever goes over your head. His characters are dazzled by their own work, but we as the audience barely get a glimpse of it—we are in no danger of actually learning something. That should be a crime.

To be fair, Teresa did learn the correct pronunciation of “jojoba”. That’s as enlightening as Proof gets.

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