Regional Reviews: San Diego
Every sequence takes place in the Chicago home of prestigious scientist Anton Myrvold (Yeager), where he lives a fairly happy life with his Indian peace activist wife Sunita (Roxane Carrasco). They hope to enjoy a relaxing dinner party with two of Anton's doctoral students, Gray Foxberry (Joel Miller) and his girlfriend Britt Carlsson (Kate Rose Reynolds). Sunita becomes concerned when Anton tells her he is giving an important fellowship to Britt. She is worried because Gray was originally supposed to receive the fellowship. As one would expect, the evening becomes much more tense than anyone had expected.
Playwright Cooper brings up a concept that feels truer today than it ever has. No matter how successful or admired people are, they can still be far from perfect. When first introduced, Anton appears jovial, brilliant, and incredibly charismatic. Not much time passes before the audience realizes he has the traits of a sociopatha shift from a pleasant night to an uncomfortable one happens before the end of the opening scene. It's a pretty big change and Anton's personality switch happens in an abrupt manner. In future productions, Cooper might want to add a few more pages before Anton's true colors show. Once Anton is revealed to be a man capable of great anger and unpleasant actions, Cooper's plot becomes dramatic and serious.
Even as the intensity rises, there is dark wit throughout the entire play. Part of the reason the humor remains consistent is Yeager's portrayal of Anton. No matter how repellent Anton becomes, Yeager plays the role like a misunderstood hero with only noble intentions. Anton's uncomfortable exchanges with his wife and students make up a good amount of Cooper's dialogue. Sunita, Gray and Britt slowly become angry and horrified by Anton's behavior and, while they aren't saints either, the portrayals by Carrasco, Miller and Reynolds feel humane.
Rosina Reynolds' direction depicts a slow train wreck occurring in front of theatregoers' eyes. Damage occurs, yet people can't look away form the actions taking place onstage. Sean Fanning's set doesn't foreshadow the grim tale that occurs. Instead, he presents a house that feels perfect for an accomplished scientist and researcher. Curtis Mueller's lighting makes the abode feel calm, but also contributes to a claustrophobic ambience when Anton speaks to Gray and Britt in his small study room.
Nothing that happens at the residence is ever dry or boring. Cooper simplifies certain concepts about science in a way that's easy to digest and is not heavy handed. Conflicts that occur are generally caused by Anton's relationships with others, as opposed to debates about education or information. He also brings up broader issues like sexism, betrayal and jealousy. His treatment of women is very complicated and will likely leave many discussing how the female characters are handled. While Sunita is a positive portrayal of a woman who is equally as smart as her husband, Britt is an intentionally troubled rising student. She justifiably complains about how hard it is for women to be treated as equals with men, yet her determination to move up in life results in unjustifiable and pathetic behavior on her part.
Margin of Error thrillingly showcases the ugly side of a self-important man. The Roustabouts Theatre Co. is off to a strong start, with the potential to produce intelligent and entertaining theatrical works.
The Roustabouts Theatre Company presents Margin of Error through May 7, 2017, Sundays through Saturdays at 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA. Tickets are $42.00 and can be purchased online at www.theroustabouts.org or by phone at 1-619-544-1000.