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Human Error

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Plane truths: Tasha Lawrence (left) and Ray Anthony Thomas. - PHOTO BY SUELLEN FITZSIMMONS

In the Hollywood-pitch world of "meeting cute," you'd be hard-pressed to come up with something odder than what Keith Reddin supplies in Human Error, receiving its Pittsburgh premiere at City Theatre.

A plane crashes in the Midwest and a crew from the National Transportation Safety Board shows up to investigate. And in the midst of all that jetsam, two of the NTSB workers fall in love. But, as the Bard said, "The course of true love never did run smooth," and the couple, Miranda and Erik, realize they have problems ... and it's not just matching up severed limbs to truncated torsos.

Pittsburgh audiences might be familiar with Reddin's work: Two years ago, City Theatre staged his political comedy The Missionary Position. And many, many moons ago, the Public Theater presented All the Rage, a comedy/tragedy about life in the big city.

I have to say that I prefer those to this. The overarching theme of Human Error is that life is unknowable, things fall from the sky, and even if love hurts, the absence of it hurts worse.

... What? I'm sorry, were you saying something? Seem to have dozed off.

I can't exactly call Reddin's message trite -- even though I want to -- because in the abstract those are big issues. But, on the other hand, writers have been dealing with those subjects since we learned how to get ink into a goose feather. And, it must be said, Reddin doesn't really bring anything new to the party.

There's very little reason that Miranda and Erik would ever get together, but if they didn't there wouldn't be a play so ... there ya go. And for a work about emotionally stunted people, both characters, plus a third who is a crash victim, are far too self-aware. No, let me amend that: All three seem to be very aware that they are characters in a play. And maybe that's my ultimate trouble with Human Error: Reddin tries hard to write something heartfelt, but it always feels like it's simply written to be heartfelt.

Along those lines Tasha Lawrence, Matt Walton and Ray Anthony Thomas give strong performances, highly polished by director Tracy Brigden, that are no less enjoyable just because they are so actor-y. It's a well-meaning, if slight, play in which they find themselves, and I appreciate the enormous contribution they've made.

 

Human Error continues through May 10. City Theatre, 13th & Bingham Streets, South Side. 412-431-2489.

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