By Wendy Carson
The Home Pregnancy Test – it is so ingrained in our lives now that you can even buy one at Dollar Tree. However, it was not so long ago that it was created. Prior to this, women had to go to the doctor and not only convince him to test her but also wait about two months for the result.
American Lives Theater launches the world premiere of the play “Predictor,” by Jennifer Blackmer. It tells the story of Meg Crane, the woman who not only saw the flaws in the current system but also persevered to develop the first-ever home pregnancy test.
As is the case with so much of women’s medicine and discoveries, Crane’s name is mostly lost to history. Blackmer delves into the intense, sexist struggles of one woman who knows what she wants and fights the misogynist barriers thrown up against her every effort.
Brittany Magee embodies Crane as a sweet, yet determined woman who is in no way going to allow her voice to not be heard. She sees that the test, previously confined to laboratories, is actually very easy and develops a simple, convenient package for it out of a plastic paper clip holder. All the men she must deal with constantly rebuff this design – declaring she has no idea what women want.
While the rest of the cast play multiple roles and are referred to in the program book as Chorus # 1-6, each is excellent and does embody at least one prime role within the story which I will use to summarize their efforts.
Christine Zavakos plays Meg’s roommate Jodie, an artist and free spirit constantly encouraging Meg to stand up for herself and fight.
Jen Johansen flows between Meg’s mother and coworker. She portrays the lack of knowledge the generations before her were given regarding their own bodies as well as the fears of this newer generation’s need to change things.
Miki Mathoiudakis superbly brings Meg’s grandmother to life with her even more primitive knowledge of sexual behaviors and morality.
Zack Neiditch not only brings us a charming game show host but also the head of the company Meg works for who at first has no time for silly lady things.
Drew Vidal embodies the most toxic example of male ego in the show. He gives us an advertising executive who sees Meg as nothing more than a secretary who knows nothing about business or how to “play the game” and torpedoes her every attempt to prove herself.
Clay Mabbitt gives us the snarky superiority of the lab tech who insists only a (male) lab tech could possibly check the test results (because looking in a mirror for a circle in the bottom of a test tube is a difficult job). This is balanced by his portrayal of a more insightful executive in the company’s marketing department.
This show is Bridget Haight’s directorial debut, and she has done a great job of bringing us the story of a woman’s perseverance in the 1970s world of business (like a more-sexist “Mad Men”). The story is a vital piece of women’s history that was destined to be lost as Crane was only given a patent on her test design. The actual test itself was sold to another company, which sat on the rights to it for ten years before it finally made it to the market, the corporation taking full credit for introducing this important tool for women’s health.
Performances run through May 28 at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre, 705 N. Illinois St., downtown Indianapolis. Get tickets at phoenixtheatre.org, or americanlivestheatre.org.
Note that this weekend, the real Meg Crane will be in attendance. She will be part of a pre-show program 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, as well as “Mom, Mimosas and Meg” for Mother’s Day, May 14, available for questions after the performance.