In A Misunderstanding, actor/playwright Matt Chait expands on his 2017 play, Disinherit the Wind.* A well-respected biology professor is once more in court attempting to regain his position at the University of California. Chait reprises his role as Doctor Bertram Cates, a name borrowed from the man who was put on trial for teaching evolution in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. In this new play, Cates once more attacks Darwinian evolution for lacking real evidence to back up the theory. And further, in compelling argument, he insists on a universal spiritual element to account for the striving spark of life across the spectrum of all living things. Cates is not a bible thumper or creationist. He is a seeker after plausible reason.
Cates is opposed in court by the Dean of the School of Microbiology, Doctor Joshua Brownstein (Bruce Katzman), a rationalist who would love to have Cates back in the department if only he would refrain from teaching his radical “spiritual” notions to first year students. The interplay of the characters is patterned after the sparring of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, which inspired the play Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. A subplot concerning the fractured romantic relations between graduate student Howard Blair (Dennis Renard) and Melinda Brownstein (Amy-Helene Carlson), the dean’s daughter, compliments and expands the courtroom arguments.
Playwright Chait is clearly on a mission to shake the absolute primacy of Darwinian evolution and rescue alternative notions from the grasp of religion, much as Darrow did in 1925, but with a spiritual bent. His argument is compelling, rational, and thought provoking, and, like evolution, ultimately unprovable.
A Misunderstanding is directed by Elina de Santos, with set by Todd Faux, lighting by Leigh Allen, sound design by Ross Chait, costume design by Michael Mullen, and graphic design by Kiff Scholl. The production manager is Matthew Herrmann, and the stage manager is Tempest Rockbell.
Presented by Rubidor Productions, A Misunderstanding runs through February 3 at The Complex (Ruby Theatre), 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood.