Matt Chait Wants to be Understood

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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In this second dramatization of Matt Chait’s central argument for intelligent design, the debate between a scientist (Bruce Katzman) and a disgraced professor (Matt Chait) is couched in the coinciding and altogether human dilemma of two young people who are affected by the ideas promulgated by the two men. Howard Blair (Dennis Renard), A prospective Ph.D. candidate, was deeply influenced by professor Bertram Cates (Chait) before his dismissal from the Biology Department for espousing spiritual views on evolution. Blair’s fiance, Melinda (Amy-Helene Carlson), is in opposition to Cates’ ideas. Since her father is head of the Biology department, she backs his view that spirituality can have no role in any explanation of Darwin’s theories. The couple’s opposite sides over Cate's beliefs form the emotional center of A Misunderstanding.

 

The Rubidor Productions' team admirably combines its efforts for a satisfying evening of theatre. Director Elina De Santos keeps the pot boiling as the debates, both academic and romantic, gradually escalate. The diaphanous setting (by Todd Faux), augmented by a multicolored lighting design (by Leigh Allen), with costuming by Michael Mullen, keeps the attention on the heady discussion. As Department Head Brownstein, Katzman proves himself more open-minded compared to Chait’s own pronouncements. And therein lies the rub.

 

Chait constructs his narrative in alternating scenes between a hearing (presumably in response to a lawsuit) and the two lovers’ growing rift as a result of the debate. Perhaps in an effort to keep the ideas in contrast, he doesn’t delve into more recent scientific theories that temper Darwin’s original findings. At the same time, his description of spiritual aspects of the universe, overlooking Christian theology, favors Eastern philosophies and, for that reason, seems to offer up a fresh approach to the concept of intelligent design. Because Chait’s ideas lean closer to physics than the subtleties of evolution though, it’s clear that Chait has room to continue on his journey to be understood.

Rubidor Productions presents A Misunderstanding, continuing through this weekend only: Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Sundays at The Ruby Theatre @ The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood 90038. Tickets are $30.  For reservations call (323) 960-4418 or at: www.plays411.com/misunderstanding.