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Out & About: ‘Human Error’ just perfect - Review

Posted on 01/29/2019 5:03am by Jennifer Madigan

By Scott Andrews | January 28, 2019

The Forecaster | Out & About

The halfway point of winter occurs this weekend, and a few hot choices for theater and music beckon.

At The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn, “Human Error” is a comedy that threads a delicate line between satire and think piece, between social commentary and goofball farce.

In the quarter-century that I’ve been attending The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn, I’ve discovered a significant signature style of script selection that characterizes artistic director Christopher Schario.

Schario loves comedies that start out as wacky farces, then pivot to more serious issues and darker moods. Every year he picks at least one or two plays that fit this dichotomous mold.

An archetype is Schario’s midwinter choice, “Human Error,” by Eric Pfeffinger, a Midwestern journalist-turned-dramatist. This new play starts out on the wacky side, then turns to one of America’s most serious issues: the yawning cultural chasm that separates millions of us.

The opening situation is simple. A hopelessly incompetent fertility doctor (Dale Place) mistakenly implants an in vitro embryo from a hip liberal intellectual couple (Laura Baranik and Terrell Wheeler) into the womb of a very conservative church-going woman (Heather Dilly) who is married to an avid hunter and gun collector (Joe Gately).

The belly laughs erupt when the two couples meet and attempt to become friends for the sake of the baby. Conflict between lifestyles and values are often the driving force behind comedy – as in this case – but the grating friction is also emblematic of one of America’s deepest cultural divides. Pfeffinger’s play oscillates between the comic and serious sides, and I think he strikes a perfect balance.

Comic sparks fly, of course, but the tone darkens as each of the four individuals struggles to outgrow and escape their own stereotypes. And Pfeffinger has definitely drawn them as stereotypes. Plus there’s a surprise at the end that nobody anticipates.

Pfeffinger’s writing is witty throughout and the five professional actors give excellent performances under Schario’s deft direction.

Catch “Human Error” at The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, through Feb. 3 with performances Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. Call 782-3200.