Unwilling to rest on his laurels, playwright/actor Matt Chait has followed up his thought-provoking “Disinherit the Wind” with an equally challenging look at what happens next in A MISUNDERSTANIDNG. Directed by the talented veteran theater director Elina de Santos, A MISUNDERSTANDING probes some very fundamental questions with some clear and sometimes equally perplexing answers. Again, at the center of the controversies inherent in a scientific vs. a spiritual approach to the world around us, author Chait examines whether people with very different world views can reach a common understanding. And whether love really does conquer all.
Bertram Cates (Matt Chait) is again facing a university board hearing to determine whether or not he will be permitted to return to professor status, making him eligible to teach and get research grants. Joshua Brownstein (Bruce Katzman) staunchly represents the university’s position – that science is king and that Darwin is his first-born son. Much of the piece centers on the gripping debate which Cates and Brownstein have as each attempts to sway the other to his opinion. To add a soupcon of spice to an essentially intellectual tale, it just so happens that Brownstein’s daughter Melinda (Amy-Helene Carlson) is engaged to one of Cates’ avid supporters, graduate student Howard Blair (Dennis Renard). To further complicate matters, Melinda is completely unaware that her fiancé has become an acolyte of Cates, who has been at odds with her father for some time. Thus leaving her torn between her love for her father and her lover.
The ensemble cast does an excellent job of playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses – each with a very special niche to fill in this potential fire fight. Director de Santos delves into the characters with intensity and manages to add some life (and a few lighter moments) into a story which could have been rather dry and bookish.
Tod Faux’s set is simple but adequate, combining potentially harsh lines with gentle colors – the very essence of Chait’s story. Ross Chait’s sound and Leigh Allen’s lighting help move the account along. Ultimately, A MISUNDERSTANDING offers some hope for people who may rigidly adhere to their ideas while ignoring all arguments to the contrary. The message? Everyone needs to listen carefully to opposing arguments in order to find a nexus of thought. To Chait’s credit, the play gradually gains steam, so that what could be a highly philosophical topic eventually screams of humanity. And touches our very human roots.
A MISUNDERSTANDING runs through February 3, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Ruby Theatre at the Complex is located at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Holly wood, CA 90038. Tickets are $30 ($15 students and seniors). For information and reservations, call 323-960-4418 or go online.