By Kathy Flynn
Matt Chait and Bruce Katzman in "A Misunderstanding"
Photo by Ed Krieger
The 1955 play Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial which resulted in a conviction for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class. Matt Chait's 2015 play,
Disinherit the Wind, a wordy "play of ideas" sought to spin that on its head, revisiting the scenario from the side of the spiritualist.
A Misunderstanding, a play about science, spirituality, and relationships, is a reworking of that earlier piece. Playwright Matt Chait again plays Professor Bertram Cates, who has lost his job, and his tenure, for teaching a side of spirituality to his freshman biology students. Cates sues to be reinstated, and the bulk of the play is the trial, pitting Cates against department head Joshua Brownstein (Bruce Katzman). The trial spans several days, with each man taking the stand to be cross-examined by the other, spouting lofty ideas about spirituality versus science. Meanwhile Brownstein's daughter Melinda (Amy-Helene Carlson) and her fiancée Howard (Dennis Renard) argue and separate due to differing opinions in the case.
Dennis Renard and Amy-Helene Carlson
Photo by Ed Krieger
The ideas presented here are thought-provoking, and the dialogue is smart and intense, but quite honestly, two hours of watching old white men argue with each other is not particularly entertaining. And just like a family dinner table argument, the same points are made again and again, becoming dull with repetition.
The acting here is first-rate, with Bruce Katzman's performance particularly noteworthy for managing to convey a sense of humanity behind his plea for rationality. The set design, while simple, does well at conveying the two settings.
A Misunderstanding is written by Matt Chait and directed by Elina de Santos. It runs through Feb 3 at the Ruby Theatre at the Complex. 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90038. Performances take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $30 general admission and $15 for students and seniors and can be purchased by calling (323) 960-4418 or by visiting