The observation comes from no less an authority than the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's Our Town: "You know as well as I do that the dead don't stay interested in us living people for very long." In a production of Proof at Temple Theatre, director Debra Gillingham seems to pursue a refutation. In this, the region's fourth production of the play in the past decade, the ghost of Robert, the prickly mathematical giant and father of central character Catherine, remains on the run-down premises of Eileen Greenbaum-Mintz's set for the play's two acts, tending to his business until crises focus his attentions on his troubled daughter.
The only drawback to Gillingham and actor Mark Filiaci's take on Robert, a brilliant, impatient man who must have been a dragon to get along with, is the actor's relative youthfulness. Still, Robert's social ineptitude is as clear as his love for Catherine, his daughter who has inherited something of his gift for math—and, possibly, part of his instability as well.
Molly Carden is probably the most believable of the four Catherines we've met in area productions. Hers is a rough-edged geek grrrl with a sharp eye for bullshit, now a bit shaken after spending two years caring for a mentally incapacitated father. But in a play whose very title asks what can finally be proven in human relationships and what can only be taken on faith, our initial doubts about Hal (Joshua Brocki), a former student of her father's and potential love interest, are resolved too quickly. As a result, the first thicket of questions is pruned far back before the bigger ones sprout at midshow, prior to a rapprochement between Hal and Catherine that's ultimately a bit too streamlined in the work's final pages.