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Sci-fi musicals mirror MIT life

Can one spend too much time in a lab? Can engineers dance? The Musical Theatre Guild confronts these questions as it ventures into the science fiction world with the production of Weird Romance, two one-act musicals of "speculative fiction" set in the near future.

With a laboratory setting at MIT for one of the stories and plot devices that include advanced technologies such as holography and brain transfers, each story--The Girl Who Was Plugged In and Her Pilgrim Soul--uses a character that is not quite human to show a different perspective on love.

Director Scott Gagnon, who credits his cast with providing insight on how engineers would behave and on how to design a realistic lab, not to mention the creation of "some fun special effects," finds the match of material and venue perfect. "We have dancing engineers in lab coats and goggles, a hotshot singing scientist and an MIT lab setup," says Mr. Gagnon, who received the MFA in theatrical directing from Emerson College and has acted and directed professionally in the Boston area.

In Her Pilgrim Soul, a dedicated scientist named Kevin finds that his marriage is suffering because of the time he devotes to his laboratory. Cara Laughlin, a senior in literature and biology who plays Nola, Kevin's holographic lab project, notes that where a general audience would sympathize with his neglected wife, an MIT audience will probably sympathize with Kevin.

"The [play's] scientists are very typical of MIT students," said Ms. Laughlin, adding wryly that Kevin's marriage "is very reminiscient of some relationships I've had with electrical engineering students."

With music by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors and Disney animated classics Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid), book by Alan Brennert with lyrics and additional book by David Spencer, the show will be performed in Kresge Little Theater on Friday-Sunday, April 11-13 and Thursday-Saturday, April 17-19. Curtain is at 8pm except for a 2pm matinee on Sunday, April 13. Tickets are $9, $8 for MIT faculty and staff and other students, and $6 for MIT/Wellesley students (group rates available). For information and reservations, call x3-6294, e-mail or see the Web page at .

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 9, 1997.

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