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PROOF

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aded with Pulitzer, Tonys, and assorted other honors, David Auburn's Proof indeed proves itself a sturdy and most entertaining stage concoction directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and Sam Woodhouse. The play is a regular compendium of dramaturgical legerdemain and interesting themes. Math, madness, family, glass ceilings suffered by women in science, and good-looking nerds in love are compellingly put into play, employing surefire stage devices going back as far as Shakespeare. Robert, a middle-aged mathematical genius suffering from referential mania—shades of the film A Beautiful Mind—fades in and out of the scene like a ghost or hypnogogic vision, reminiscent of Hamlet's dad, or Macbeth's Banquo, or more recent revenants from Foxfire, Da, and To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday. Sam Woodhouse plays this rambling wreck with the unbalanced brio of a Lear—a role he could consider. Robert's daughter Catherine—combining some aspects of both Prince Hamlet and Cordelia—is left, after his fatal heart attack, in their crumbling old brick castle of a house (quaint as a Kincade painting in Jerry Sonnenberg's scenic design, cozily lighted from within by Jennifer Setlow), where she is trying to sort out her father's confused scientific legacy. Danica McKellar makes a wonderfully smoldering, slight, spirited Catherine—a bit of a shrew, like her namesake—ready to do mental and even physical battle on behalf of her father's and her own mathematical work. She feistily defends his scholarship and memory, as well as her personal intellectual integrity, against snoopy young professor Hal (Francis Gercke) and her sister Claire (Cheryl Kenan Fording). Claire is much more benign than Goneril or Regan, but she has her tendencies—unsympathetic to Catherine's filial devotion and eager to liquidate the estate. Their sisterly set-tos are dramatically bracing. Gercke's geeky yet handsome Hal, balletically graceful even as he stumbles and stammers, falls into steamy, stormy romance with Catherine that nearly founders on the collision of his need for proof of her scientific originality with her greater need for proof of his devotion. The arcana of higher mathematics are convincingly evoked but, of necessity, lightly and quickly riffled through. The prestidigitating playwright flashes the cards before our eyes, convinces us the outcome is in doubt, and then raps the deck and deals out a flush in hearts for a satisfying conclusion to his fascinating play. "Proof," presented by the San Diego Repertory Theatre at the Lyceum Stage, 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego. Tue. 7 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 & 7 p.m. Oct. 3-Nov. 2. $25.50-42.50. (619) 544-100

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