The lights dim and a computerized voice straight out of the 80′s reminds us to turn off our electronic devices and unwrap our delicious candies so as not to disturb other patrons. So begins the thought evoking, moral dilemma tale that is SCIENTIFIC AMERICANS.
Jim, (Trent Pardy) a likable, yet naive physicist gets a job doing research for the Department of Defence (DoD). His always smiling, yet intimidating boss, General Berger (Michael Blake) assures him that his position is easy going allowing him to work in any manner he choses. “The freedom. That’s what keeps people here,” says Berger. Things suddenly takes a turn for the worse when Jim unintentionally becomes involved in the development of the Stealth Bomber.
As Jim becomes more involved in his job, his relationship with his fiance, Carol, (Julia Course) a computer programmer who works with artificial intelligence, begins to unravel as she questions his morals and ethical integrity.
Several small scenes are tied together with appearances of Bill (Graham Cuthbertson) and other scientists along with Jim’s mother, a soap opera addict who is completely indifferent to her son.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICANS is a play that makes you think. It asks questions about where ideas come from and ponders, if you supply someone who is building a missile with “a couple of equations,” what is your moral responsibility towards any human casualties?
Canadian playwright and mathematician John Mighton’s first major work, SCIENTIFC AMERICANS was awarded the Dora award in 1988. Unfortunately, this play is seriously lacking a second act, as it’s run time is a mere 85 minutes. The stories need some additional telling for the audience to become more emotionally involved. The characters are all quite under-developed and the conclusion so sudden, one tends to wonder, “is that it?”
Trent Pardy is fine as Jim, mustering up just the right amount of naïveté and conflict within himself, but his relationship with the miscast Julia Course doesn’t leave him much room to shine. There is very little chemistry between the two actors, which makes it difficult to buy into them having a strong romantic bond.
Cuthbertson was one of the most entertaining parts of this production. He was an absolute joy to watch. But it is Susan Bain who steals the show as Jim’s mother. Her scenes are both touching and hilarious and left us wanting more
James Lavoie’s sci-fi inspired military set is fantastic. It’s cold and stark with a simple horizontal window for projections. The furniture seamlessly moves in and out of place on tracks in and out of automatic sliding doors at either side of the stage.
Director Andrew Shaver does a valiant job with the piece, despite it being disjointed and not fully developed.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICANS is a play designed to make the audience think. About the ethics of science, about moral integrity and the complexities of relationships. With a bit of a rewrite and some further development, this play, in this day and age, could well be one worthy of many accolades.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICANS runs through February 26 at The Segal Centre in association with Sidemart Theatrical Grocery.
Noelle Hannibal for Master class à Montréal