Courtroom Drama DISINHERIT THE WIND Challenges Scientific Status Quo
How can we understand and contextualize new information challenging what we take for granted as scientific fact? Disinherit the Wind, a play of ideas by Matt Chait that asks us to view the wonders of science through a different lens, opens March 3 at The Complex on Hollywood's Theater Row.
In this riveting courtroom drama, a renowned neurobiologist sues a prominent university for the right to teach theories of evolution that challenge the scientific status quo. His argument: neo-Darwinian materialist thought, like Creationism - the biblical orthodoxy it once replaced - has itself become a kind of religion: just as rigid, just as resistant to change. Might further scientific inquiry, in light of new evidence, yield different and surprising answers? Should recent discoveries, including the extensive range of highly developed fossils that suddenly appear during the Cambrian period and our modern understanding of DNA, require a reevaluation of the scientific thought behind the Darwinian theory of evolution?
Taking its title and the names of its characters from Jerome Lawrence's 1955 play Inherit the Wind - the fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes 'Monkey Trial' challenging the right of schools to teach evolution - Disinherit the Wind turns that challenge on its head to ask "Are we really no more than the sum of our physical parts?" According to Lawrence, the earlier play was written to criticize the then-current state of McCarthyism and defend intellectual freedom. "It's not about science versus religion. It's about the right to think," he said. Now, 60-plus years later, Chait makes that same argument.
"If Sir Isaac Newton were deified in the same way that Darwin is, then anyone who contradicted him would be held in contempt," notes neurobiologist Bertram Cates in Chait's Disinherit the Wind. "Einstein would have lived out his days as an anonymous worker in a patent office in Switzerland, and Heisenberg would have been run out of Copenhagen on a rail for his heresy. Yet when it came to Newton, the tiniest discrepancies between Newtonian predictions and actual findings, caused the scientific community not to close ranks, but to search diligently for new answers that would explain those discrepancies; hence relativity and quantum theory, transistors, GPS systems, lasers, Blu-Ray players, atomic power plants and atomic clocks."
Chait takes on the role of Cates, starring alongside Renahy Aulani, G. Smokey Campbell, Tony Cicchetti, Circus-Szalewski, Christina Hart, Stephen Tyler Howell, Lon S. Lewi and Caroline Simone O'Brien. Gary Lee Reed directs, and the creative team includes set designer Marco DeLeon, lighting designer Phillip W. Powers, Sound Designer Ross Chait and projections designer Sheiva Khalily. The stage manager is Ericka D. Bailey.
"What I love about this play is that it's written in such a way that a lay person can easily understand the complexity of the science," says Reed. "It's an intelligently written, inspiring and uplifting play of ideas."
Matt Chait has appeared in over 100 plays on and off Broadway, at theaters including American Place Theatre, Cafe LaMama, Theatre IV, National Playwright's Conference, Eugene O'Neil Foundation, Theatre Company of Boston, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival and more. Recent credits include The Stories of I.L. Peretz, Chinese Coffee and the role of Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing. He has directed plays in Los Angeles and New York, including The Three Sisters, Assorted Sandburg, Tonight in Samarkand, Pizza Man and Forty-Two Seconds From Broadway. He taught acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at UCLA, and taught private classes in Hollywood for fifteen years. In 1990, he purchased what was then the Richmond Shepard Theatre Studios and expanded that into The Complex. Matt is the recipient of a Charlie Award for contributions to the Hollywood Arts Community. Combining his passions for science (especially biology and physics) and spirituality, Chait blogs about the intersection of the two at Beyond Evolution: Is There God After Dawkins? Matt will open his one man show Understanding the Quantum at the Hollywood Fringe Festival next summer.
Gary Lee Reed has directed world premieres of The Story of Alice, a contemporary musical version of Alice in Wonderland; the whodunit Villa Thrilla by Anna Nicholas at Atwater Village Theatre; Hah Nah at the Lounge Theatre; Shades at the LATC; Lights; Dancing With the Bad Man; and Soldier's Song. Other directing credits include the historical play, The Andersonville Trial; Crown City Theatre's production of I Love you, you're perfect, now change, which ran for six months and was nominated for numerous awards; The World Goes Round at the NoHo Arts Center; a critically-acclaimed production of Godspell that garnered 22 nominations and awards and was a Critic's Choice in the Los Angeles Times, an LA Weekly Pick of the Week and Critic's Pick in Variety; Most Happy Fella, which was nominated for an LA Weekly "Best Musical" Award; To Kill A Mockingbird; Bonnie And Clyde-The Two Fisted Six Gun Musical; My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra; 1776; Jerry's Girls; Woman In Black; and Sentimental Journey. His production of Falling Lightly won first place at the annual Jerome Lawrence One-Act Play Festival in Los Angeles. He most recently directed the national tour of comedy improv Duo Theatre-Off The Cuff.
Performances of Disinherit the Wind take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., March 3 through April 9.There will be one preview performance, on Wednesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 general admission and $15 for students. The Complex is located at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038. To purchase tickets, call (323) 960-4420 or go to www.plays411.com/disinherit.