Where is the line between genius and madness? Does the line exist at all?
In Proof, the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play by David Auburn, a young woman named Catherine fears she may have inherited both from her late father, Robert. The mathematics whiz and university professor struggled with mental illness, and one of his former graduate students uncovers a paradigm-shifting mathematical proof in Robert’s office following his death—but Catherine, who is attempting to find her own path in life, has to prove its authorship.
“I had my own kind of struggle with depression in the past and my character, Catherine, it’s very clear that’s what she’s going through as well, especially with her father passing away … on a personal level for me that was interesting to re-explore,” says actress Gabby Bernard. “My mother’s also a mental-health nurse, so I kind of always grew up hearing about how parents are affected by mental illness, how children are affected by mental illness and how it impacts their life, so I’ve kind of always had a bit of an affinity towards it.”
Bernard commends Auburn’s script for dealing with mental illness from a perspective that does not rely on stereotypes or offer a clear-cut conclusion, as that’s not true to reality. The play, which consists of a four-person cast, covers a complex emotional journey, transcending past and present while tackling not only mental illness and the question of genius, but basic human relationships. Plus, there’s the language of numbers that has to be interwoven into its already heavy dialogue.
“I was surprised how much I related to her [Catherine] as a character. A lot of times I find myself cast as very dark or very kind of out-there characters, and this one hits very close to home,” Bernard says, noting Catherine’s often cynical sense of humour and difficulty opening up to others as an example of parallels between them. “One of the challenging things with her that definitely kind of surprised me was trying to draw a line between me and her sometimes because I didn’t want it to end up being just me on stage better at math. I found a lot of her mannerisms ended up just being my mannerisms, so it was a cool challenge to use myself as a jumping point for her but still make her her own entity.”
Until Sat, Dec 14 (8 pm; 2 pm Sunday matinee)
Directed by Kristen M Finlay
Walterdale Theatre, $12 – $18