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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … pastrami on rye?

(Left to right) Anna Hill as Sheri Luntz, Jesse Deardorff-Green as Ted Cranston and Michelle Lerma as Jamie McIntyre high five in a scene from LCC’s production of “American Hero.”
Photo by Kevin Fowler

Superheroes have been a mainstay in popular culture for decades, but they seem to be all the rage these days. Superhero movies dominate the box office, but Lansing Community College’s latest theater production is putting the spotlight on a different kind of hero.

LCC Theatre Program’s latest black box show, “American Hero,” tells the story of a franchise sandwich shop that gets left behind by its corporate higher ups and how three of its “sandwich artists” stay afloat in hard times.

“We know all about that in Michigan and all across the country,” said director Andrew Callis.

Penned by Bess Wohl, the play is inspired by the repercussions of the global financial crisis that hit the U.S. in 2008. Characters Sheri (Anna Hill), Jamie (Michelle Lerma) and Ted (Jesse Deardorff-Green) are examples of hardworking people laughing in the face of adversity.

“Each of them are American heroes in a way,” Callis said. “Even though they do some very foolish things, they each make sacrifices for their families.”

Callis said that audiences will likely relate to the characters’ personality traits and the different ways they react when put in tough spots.

“They’re in this situation where they’re overworked and underpaid, so how do you deal with that? With each of those attitudes, you see the pluses and minuses,” he said.

Callis said he connected with the story because he knows many Michigan residents going through similar circumstances, including the loss of high-paying jobs and difficulty achieving a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

“It’s not as easy to obtain that as it used to be. How do people continue to thrive in the face of that?” he said. “ I find that interesting and moving — the nobility of dealing with these obstacles, dealing with things falling apart around you.”

The play’s theme of heroism is revealed in acts of rebellion, compassion and strength. Callis praised Wohl’s ability to write characters that are simple and relatable on the surface but complex underneath.

“I think we’ll really see a reflection of who we are, sort of like a prism, in many of the characters,” Callis said. “It’s the heroism of typical Americans.”

Despite the depressing backdrop, Callis assures potential viewers that the play is funny and insightful, while still shedding light on globalization and the lasting effects of the global economic crisis.

“It doesn’t sugarcoat things, but it’s hopeful in exploring what choices people can make that are truly heroic.”

“American Hero” LCC Theatre Program Friday and Saturday; March 17 and 18, March 24 and 25 8 p.m. $10/$5 students LCC Black Box Theatre Gannon Building, Room 168 422 N. Washington Square, Lansing (517) 483-1488, lcc. com/cma/events


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