Author: David Auburn.
Genre: Fiction, plays, mathematics, mental health.
Publication Date: 2000.
Summary: On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, Catherine, a troubled young woman, has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable father, a famous mathematician. Now, following his death, she must deal with her own volatile emotions; the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire; and the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father's who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks that her father left behind. Over the long weekend that follows, a burgeoning romance and the discovery of a mysterious notebook draw Catherine into the most difficult problem of all: How much of her father's madness—or genius—will she inherit?
My Rating: 7/10
♥ ROBERT. Kid, I've seen you. You sleep till noon, you eat junk, you don't work, the dishes pile up in the sink. If you go out it's to buy magazines. You come back with a stack of magazines this high—I don't know how you read that crap. And those are the good days. Some days you don't get up, you don't get out of bed.
CATHERINE. Those are the good days.
ROBERT. Bullshit. Those days are lost. You threw them away. And you'll never know what else you threw away with them—the work you lost, the ideas you didn't have, discoveries you never made because you were moping in your bed at four in the afternoon. (Beat.) You know I'm right. (Beat.)
♥ CATHERINE. It's depressing fucking number.
ROBERT. Catherine, if every day you say you've lost were a year, it would be a very interesting fucking number.
CATHERINE. Thirty-three and a quarter years is not interesting.
ROBERT. Stop it. You know exactly what I mean.
CATHERINE. (Conceding.) 1,729 weeks.
ROBERT. 1,729. Great number. The smallest number expressible—
CATHERINE. —expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.
ROBERT. Twelve cubed plus one cubes equals 1,729.
CATHERINE. And ten cubed plus nine cubed. Yes, we've got it, thank you.
ROBERT. You see? Even your depression is mathematical. Stop moping and get to work. The kind of potential you have—
CATHERINE. I haven't done anything good.
ROBERT. You're young. You've got time.
CATHERINE. I do?
CATHERINE. By the time you were my age you were famous.
ROBERT. By the time I was your age I'd already done my best work. (Beat.)
♥ ROBERT. ..The clarity—that was the amazing thing. No doubts.
CATHERINE. You were happy?
ROBERT. Yeah, I was busy.
CATHERINE. Not the same thing.
ROBERT. I don't see the difference. I knew what I wanted to do and I did it.
If I wanted to work a problem all day long, I did it.
If I wanted to look for information—secrets, complex and tantalizing messages—I could find them all around me: in the air. In a pile of fallen leaves some neighbor rakes together. In box scores in the paper, written in the steam coming up off a cup of coffee. The whole world was talking to me.
If I just wanted to close my eyes, sit quietly on the porch and listen for the messages, I did that.
It was wonderful. (Beat.)
♥ ROBERT. ..The simple fact that we can talk about this together is a good sign.
CATHERINE. A good sign?
CATHERINE. How could it be a good sign?
ROBERT. Because! Crazy people don't sit around wondering if they're nuts.
CATHERINE. They don't?
ROBERT. Of course not. They've got better things to do. Take it from me. A very good sign that you're crazy is an inability to ask the question, "Am I crazy?"
CATHERINE. Even if the answer is yes?
ROBERT. Crazy people don't ask. You see?
ROBERT. So if you're asking...
CATHERINE. I'm not.
ROBERT. But if you were, it would be a very good sign.
CATHERINE. A good sign...
ROBERT> A good sign that you're fine.
ROBERT. You see? You've just gotta think these things through. Now come on, what do you say? Let's call it a night, you go up, get some sleep, and then in the morning you can—
CATHERINE. Wait. No.
ROBERT. What's the matter?
CATHERINE. It doesn't work.
ROBERT. Why not?
CATHERINE. It doesn't make sense.
ROBERT. Sure it does.
ROBERT. Where's the problem?
CATHERINE. The problem is you are crazy!
ROBERT. What difference does that make?
CATHERINE. You admitted—You just told me that you are.
CATHERINE. You said a crazy person would never admit that.
ROBERT. Yeah, but it's... oh. I see.
ROBERT. It's a point.
CATHERINE. So how can you admit it?
ROBERT. Well. Because I'm also dead. (Beat.) Aren't I?
CATHERINE. You died a week ago.
ROBERT. Heart failure. Quick. The funeral's tomorrow.
CATHERINE. That's why Claire's flying in from New York.
CATHERINE. You're sitting here. You're giving me advice. You brought me champagne.
ROBERT. Yes. (Beat.)
CATHERINE. Which means...
ROBERT. For you?
ROBERT. For you, Catherine, my daughter, who I love very much... It could be a bad sign.
♥ CATHERINE. I LIVED WITH HIM.
I spent my life with him. I fed him. Talking to him. Tried to listen when he talked. Talked to people who weren't there... Watched him shuffling around like a ghost. A very smelly ghost. He was filthy. I had to make sure he bathed. My own father.
HAL. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...
CATHERINE. After my mother died it was just me here. I tried to keep him happy no matter what idiotic project he was doing. He used to read all day. He kept demanding more and more books. I took them out of the library by the carload. We had hundreds upstairs. Then I realized he wasn't reading: He believed aliens were sending him messages through the dewey decimal numbers on the library books. He was trying to work out the code.
HAL. What kind of messages?
CATHERINE. Beautiful mathematics. Answers to everything. The most elegant proofs, proofs like music.
HAL. Sounds good.
CATHERINE. Plus fashion tips, knock-knock jokes—I mean it was NUTS, okay?
HAL. He was ill. It was a tragedy.
CATHERINE. Later the writing phase: scribbling, nineteen, twenty hours a day... I ordered him a case of notebooks and he used every one.
I dropped out of school... I'm glad he's dead.
♥ HAL. ..Sophie Germain, of course.
CATHERINE. You know her?
HAL. Germain Primes.
HAL. They're famous. Double them and add one, and you get another prime. Like two. Two is prime, doubled plus one is five: also prime.
CATHERINE. Right. Or 92,305 times 216,1998 plus one.
HAL. (Startled.) Right.
CATHERINE. That's the biggest one. The biggest one known... (Beat.)
HAL. Did he ever find out who she was. Gauss.
CATHERINE. Yeah. Later a mutual friend told him the brilliant young man was a woman.
He wrote to her: "A taste for the mysteries of numbers is excessively rare, but when a person of the sex which, according to our customs and prejudices, must encounter infinitely more difficulties than men to familiarize herself with these thorny researches, succeeds nevertheless in penetrating the most obscure parts of them, then without a doubt she must have the noblest courage, quite extraordinary talents and superior genius."
♥ ROBERT. I think there's enough here to keep me working the rest of my life.
Not just me.
I was starting to imagine I was finished, Catherine. Really finished. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful I could go to my office, have a life, but secretly I was terrified I'd never work again. Did you know that?
CATHERINE. I wondered.
ROBERT. I was absolutely fucking terrified.
Then I remembered something and a part of the terror went away. I remembered you.
Your creative years were just beginning. You'd get your degree, do your own work. You were just getting started.
If you hadn't gone into math that would have been all right. Claire's done well for herself. I'm satisfied with her.
I'm proud of you.
I don't mean to embarrass you. It's part of the reason we have children. We hope they'll survive us, accomplish what we can't.