The American premiere of Shelagh Stephenson's London play, An Experiment With an Air Pump, described as both a witty social satire and a romantic tragedy, opens the Manhattan Theatre Club's 1999-2000 season, beginning performances Oct. 5 at Stage I.
The play is about two families and the collision of science and morality and spans two centuries. The setting is a house in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the two different eras, 1799 and 1999.
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 stage. 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.
She is also working on the film version of The Memory of Water. She was born in Northcumberland and attended Manchester University.
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. Previews on Stage I begin Oct. 5. Official opening is Oct. 26. The play continues to Dec. 12.
Designers are John Lee Beatty (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and David Van Tieghem (original music and sound design).
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.
MTC, operating in two spaces in City Center in Manhattan, is the resident company that introduced New York audiences to Love! Valour! Compassion!, Sight Unseen, Lips Together, Teeth Apart and more. The current season will feature such acting notables as J. Smith-Cameron, Mary Louise Parker and Linda Lavin.
Also on the MTC season are Arthur Kopit's Y2K, David Lindsay Abaire's Fuddy Meers, Andrew Lippa's musical, The Wild Party, David Auburn's Proof and David Marshall Grant's Current Events.
-- By Kenneth Jones