Encore Michigan

‘Human Error’ is divine comedy at Purple Rose

Review March 02, 2023 Julie Linderleaf

CHELSEA, MI–We’re humans. It is inevitable that we will exhibit flaws. After all, one of the most famous quotations in the world, from Alexander Pope, is: “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

There are far more times in our lives, though, when we find it hard to forgive, and when we expect or even demand perfection. No one wants to see money deposited into the wrong account or paperwork filed on the wrong day, or an embryo implanted into the wrong uterus. 

That’s right! The wrong uterus! This is the premise of the new play, Human Error, written by Eric Pfeffinger, premiering at The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan through March 18.

Couple one: Comedy research analyst Keenan, played by Henri Franklin, and yoga instructor Madelyn, played by Meghan VanArsdalen, open the show shocked to find out that their fertilized embryos were accidently implanted into the uterus of domestic engineer and religious mom of three boys, Heather, played by Kristin Shields. 

Dr. Hoskins, played by Kevin Theis, is the poor sot stuck in the middle of this drastic clerical, HUMAN error of last names that are far too similar for couples that are so incredibly different. The two couples then spend the next nine months together as Madelyn and Keenan’s DNA grows inside Heather. 

Alex Leydenfrost plays Jim, Heather’s loving husband: The fanatical hunter, Ohio State football fan, and red-blooded gun toting American small-business and giant-truck owner. Leydenfrost exhibits deft comedic timing and his presence fills the stage.

Playwright Eric Pfeffinger definitely used the right amount of comedic plot-build to get audiences to laugh together over many intense and highly sensitive topics. Invitro-fertilization, guns and hunting, religious beliefs, pro-life or abortion are all chattered about. Even Keenan’s job as a think-tank comedy researcher craftily builds tension relief and pokes fun at modern comedy itself. 

Human Error is directed by Lynch R. Travis. The set created by Bartley H. Bauer is simple and skeletal in design, yet so easy to manipulate into various configurations. The pieces start as a doctor’s office in Slyvania, Ohio, and move gracefully into a car,  Jim’s mancave, complete with a 152 inch tv, a living room, the deck area at Jim and Heather’s Lake house, back to the doctor’s office a couple more times, as well as Keenan and Madelyn’s house, and even a lion at Cabela’s. The flexibility and adaptability is genius.

Even though part of the play is set in Slyvania, Ohio, there are several funny Michigan tags in the script, such as Cabela’s “Outdoor” store in Dundee, Michigan. Keenan works at the University of Michigan. The story is universal, but the setting is hyper-local.

The hour and a half goes by fast without an intermission. And as we end up back in the doctor’s office with a final twist, you realize you’ve just coasted through the nine months of these two sets of strangers connected by this one human error.  Somehow they even feel that this one baby will solve the fractured nation as the “golden key.”

The shared experiences are not recommended for a younger viewing audience.

Week of 6/17/2024

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