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A: David Auburn Pf: 2000, New York Pb: 2001 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Back porch of a house in Chicago, c.1996–2000 C: 2m, 2fRobert, once a brilliant mathematician, became mentally sick in his twenties. When his wife died, he was cared for by his daughter Catherine, who was forced to give up her studies. On her 25th birthday, a week after Robert's death, she still imagines that he is alive, which adds to her worry that she may inherit his mental instability. Hal, an eager 28-year-old research assistant, is working on Robert's notebooks, even though Catherine insists they are full of gibberish. Boringly practical older sister Claire, a currency analyst, arrives for the funeral; she is concerned about Catherine and suggests she should come and live with her in New York. At a post-funeral party, Catherine and Hal kiss and go to bed together. Claire, before she leaves, tells Catherine that she intends selling the family home. Hal finds a proof relating to prime numbers which will revolutionize mathematics. Catherine claims that she wrote it. Flashback to four years previously during a lucid period in Robert's life: Catherine tells him that she has a place at university to study maths and meets Hal for the first time. Returning to the present, Claire and Hal find it almost impossible to believe that the proof could have been written by Catherine. Flashback to three and a half years ago: Catherine returns home from university to discover that Robert has lost his sanity again. Finally, in the present, Hal tells Catherine that the proof checks out and contains so much recent thinking that he is now convinced that it was written by her. Catherine begins to talk through the proof with Hal.

A: David Auburn Pf: 2000, New York Pb: 2001 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Back porch of a house in Chicago, c.1996–2000 C: 2m, 2f

As with many first plays, Auburn attempts to deal with a plethora of issues: the relationship between sanity and genius; the fear of inherited mental illness; the clash between sisters with very different characters; above all, how hard it is for innovative women to gain recognition (an echo of Stoppard's Arcadia). That Auburn can keep so many balls in the air and introduce some effective theatrical surprises, suggests that he is a writer of considerable potential. The role of Catherine was played at the London premiere by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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