For the final show in this year’s Stages of the Law series, Lansing Community College presents a knowing take on Shelagh Stephenson’s “An Experiment with an Air Pump,” a time-traveling play about moral limits and scientific knowledge.
With the help of behind-the-scenes faculty and staff, director Mary Job takes a play with the potential to be overly intellectual and transforms it into a thoughtful and sometimes playful exposition. John Lepard, executive director of Williamston Theatre, serves as a dialect coach, while LCC’s Andy Callis has composed and performs poignant, transitional music that adds subtle intention. Charlotte Deardorff ’s costumes, particularly for the scenes set in 1799, are crisp and evocative of the time. The Dart Auditorium stage becomes the library of physician and scientist Joseph Fenwick thanks to set and lighting designer Thomas Schraeder.
There are also several strong performances in this production. Ariel Ojibway, as the surprising hump-backed housekeeper Isobel Bridie, combines awkward, vulnerable movement with a dialect that is foreign to the ear yet perfectly understood, to create a truly unusual and charming character.
Erin Cline, as the frustrated Susannah Fenwick, doubles as the play’s narrator and presents many of the play’s core arguments. Cline displays a range of emotions, delivering her lines with delicacy and grace.
Kathyrn Renaldi-Smith and Natasha Desenna Fernandes, as the daughters of Susannah and Joseph, play their passionate, earnest characters with an energy that refuses to be ignored, no matter how hard the men in the play try.
David G.B. Brown, in the featured role of Phil, nearly steals the show with his working-class English accent and offbeat understanding of the arcane arguments about stemcell research.
While the play centers on parallels between a ban on the use of cadavers to teach medical students in the past and today’s controversy over stem cell research, this theme is overshadowed by subtexts regarding the role of women in science and the dehumanization of intellectual arguments. “Air Pump” works on many levels, but none more significant than when it speaks to the respect that needs to be shown to those impacted by scientific research.
‘An Experiment with an Air Pump’
LCC Theatre Department Through Nov. 15 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday Dart Auditorium, 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing $10/$5 (517) 372-0945 www.lcc/edu/hpa