Sunday, February 25, 2007


Friday night I saw David Auburn's Proof in the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square. It dealt with the questions I asked myself in Warm Heart, Cold Heart, Post-Emotionalism and the Third Way and Addicted to be Linked. A young girl (Cathy) drops out of school to take care of her mentally unstable father, who used to be a genius mathematician. Upon her father's death, she confronts her sister about the choices they made, and her father's student (Hal) about the magical proof that is found in her father's desk.

When Cathy accuses her sister of living her own life while she was taking care of their dad, her sister reminds her of the tacit division of labour between them: While Cathy stayed with their dad in Chicago, she worked in NY and paid the bills. She also points out that it might have been better for their father if he was institutionalized. Again, division of labour: There are institutions who are specialized in taking care of the mentally instable, so their families can continue living their lives.

As rational as this sounds, it is pretty cold and harsh. It is really nobody's responsibility that their father fell ill. It is just plain bad luck. Who, then, should take care of him? Any one of us could fall so ill that we can no longer take care of ourselves. Behind a Rawlsian veil, it gets harder to decide on general principles. But then, one could also claim that if someone sacrifices too much to take care of a loved one, their unhappiness would leave them useless, even harmful. Someone should either fast without complaint, or not fast at all. But apparently her father appreciates and asks for Cathy's support.

Then Cathy gives Hal, who convinces her that he cares deeply about her, a key to her father's locked drawer. In the drawer is a notebook that has a revolutionary mathematical proof in it. Cathy claims to have written it as she was spending most of her time in the house, taking care of her father. Hal, dedicated to mathematics but far from a creative mind himself, refuses to believe her.

Hal genuinely cares about Cathy, and he means well, but her newly-found genious catches him by surprise. It tips the balance of their relationship in his head, as he pictured himself as the stronger one, the care-taker. He finds it impossible (and if not, unfair) that this young girl comes up with something that he couldn't after years of hard work.

I thought the play made good points on human nature, on selfishness, sacrifice, envy. I hope I will be able to write stuff like this one day! (If I'm patient enough to sit down and actually create something meaningful!)

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