After a quiet holiday, we start the New Year with A Misunderstanding by Matt Chait which asks, "Can we agree to disagree and still love one another?"
With the state of the world in a bit of chaos right now, playwright Chait weighs in with what may be a tunnel with a light at the end. Or, is it an oncoming train?
The 'on coming train' in Chait's new play may be one of ethics, semantics and faith. Faith being the foundation of the argument of "Something Else" v. Darwin.
"A Misunderstanding" presents the idea that a tenured teacher, Bertram Cates (Matt Chait), a two time Nobel Laureate candidate and distinguished professor of Biology at UCLA, may be dismissed for including in his teaching that the essential ideas put forth by Charles Darwin might just have a flaw.
Cates has had an epiphany leading him to the idea that there is a 'missed' understanding in the origin of species. Can the human mind comprehend that which passes all understanding? Lao Tzu says, "yes and no."
Though she may have been faulty in her "logic" Mary Baker Eddy has successfully convinced followers/practitioners of Christian Science that "... man is not material, he is spiritual." Chait with his premise moves in that direction. His 'science' proclaims that there may be a subtle essence that, in fact, might be comprehensible to human beings.
Factor in the love affair of PhD candidate, Howard (Dennis Renard) and, his betrothed, Melinda Brownstein (Amy-Helene Carlson). Melinda being the daughter of Joshua Brownstein (Bruce Katzman), the distinguished chair of the UCLA Biology department. The communication between the young man and his bride to be has been derailed by fear, which leads to another 'misunderstanding.' PhD candidate Howard has been mentored by Cates and has secretly assisted him after Cates' dismissal. This revelation puts Howard at the risk of losing his position at UCLA. A 'coincidence' has brought professor and student together.
The tangled web of unshared information plagues everyone. Of course, the questions still remain.
Who am I? Who are you? Why are we here?
As Brownstein, Katzman holds his ground well in the 'trial' to decide if Cates will be reinstated as a fully tenured biology professor. Compromise and discussion (the essence of getting beyond missed understanding) blossoms and with a little give and take, all shall be well.
One intimate piece of the play turns on the reference to a sad suicide that the plot attempts to pin on Cates: the death of a young student, Matthew Brady. In the back and forth during the trial, an analogy of a modern digital camera is introduced. "Does the camera actually 'see' what it photographs?"
This brought to mind Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady. Brady used his camera to record the heroes and the horror of what man can do. A simple coincidence? Or did Chait, intentionally want for his audience to make a connection?
|Dennis Renard and Amy-Helene Carlson|
Photo by Ed Krieger
Todd Faux's simple set with Leigh Allen's lights bring the show to its essence. A table, two chairs and a box to represent the scenes. It's the argument of the play, that I would suggest, be carried into the audience either within the performance (as with Jack Grapes' "Circle of Will") or as a talk back to elevate the debate beyond the only slightly comfortable conclusion.
Rubidor Productions presents
by Matt Chait
Directed by Elina de Santos
The Ruby Theatre at The Complex
6476 Santa Monica Boulevard
Hollywood, California 90038
Opened January 4, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
Through Sunday, February 3, 2019