If businesspeople have trouble negotiating interoffice romances, you’d think that NTSB agents, like the mismatched pair in Keith Reddin’s new play
Human Error, would avoid them completely. While investigating a crash in which 117 people have died—not the most romantic backdrop—Erik (Tim Guinee), a sleazy yet charming divorcé, picks up Miranda, his fellow investigator, who has spent time in psychiatric care because of a previous failed love affair. As the audience tallies up the red flags these paramours ignore, the couple speed through some cop-show banter disguised as flirtation and end up in bed lickety-split. Despite Miranda’s resistance, the affair develops, and Erik turns out to be a horndog with a heart of gold. The banter continues in a more serious tone as the two take a deposition from the remarkably needy lone survivor (Ray Anthony Thomas), who has lost his wife in the crash and embarrasses the new lovers by broaching deep questions about marriage and death. Later, Erik and Miranda talk about having kids “in the abstract.” She touches his scars. Groan. Then, at the worst possible moment—the plot points in Human Error arrive with the subtlety of 9/11—Erik’s daughter gets sick, and he decides to go back to the ex-wife he never told Miranda about. Girl loses boy, goes nuts. Girl and boy have a fistfight so tidily choreographed it’s comical. Audience hopes the central metaphor of this shaky, predictable affair is nothing so asinine as “love is like a plane crash,” but after the argument, when Miranda tearfully recites dialogue from the black-box recorder, we know this baby’s going down.