The New York premiere of Shelagh Stephenson's An Experiment With an Air Pump opens Oct. 31 at Manhattan Theatre Club, taking audiences on an emotional journey that spans 200 years.
Described as both a witty social satire and a romantic tragedy, Air Pump is the first show of the 1999-2000 MTC season. The London-bred play, which began performances Oct. 5 at MTC's Stage I, is about two families and the collision of science and morality. Spanning two centuries, the play's setting is a house in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the two different eras, 1799 and 1999.
Originally, the opening was to be Oct. 26, but that was bumped after two shows were scrapped due to actor Daniel Gerroll falling ill.
The Oct. 20 performance was canceled after the first act; Gerroll was too ill to play and had lost his voice. The Oct. 21 show was also scrapped. The Oct. 22 performance was performed, with Gerroll. Stephenson, whose first stage play, The Memory of Water, had its New York debut at MTC in 1998-99, wrote radio plays for the BBC before turning to the theatre. Her third play for the stage, Ancient Lights, for London's Hampstead Theatre, has been delivered, and she continues to be under commission to London's Royal National Theatre.
Doug Hughes, former associate artistic director of MTC (1981-83) and now artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre, directs a cast that includes Christopher Duva (the Public's recent Tartuffe), Linda Emond (The Dying Gaul, MTC's Nine Armenians), Daniel Gerroll (High Society, Scotland Road, A Madhouse in Goa), Jason Butler Harner, Seana Kofoed (MTC's The Memory of Water, Broadway's recent Night Must Fall), Clea Lewis, (Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight) and Ana Reeder (New Group's Some Voices). Lewis (Audrey of TV's "Ellen") replaces the previously announced Heather Goldenhersh.
City Center is at 131 W. 55th Street. For ($20-$50) ticket information, call CityTix at (212) 581-1212. For other MTC information, call (212) 399-3030.
Meanwhile, on Stage II, David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers opens Nov. 2.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson