Williamston Theatre deftly balances humor and gravitas in ‘Predictor’


On paper, the development of the first pregnancy test doesn’t seem like a compelling premise for a play. However, Williamston Theatre’s production of “Predictor” is one of the funniest and most touching shows of Greater Lansing’s 2023-‘24 theater season.

Today, a woman can buy a two-pack of pregnancy tests for less than $10 and find out in 15 minutes if she’s pregnant. We take for granted how cheap, simple, private and empowering it is to have at-home pregnancy tests, but “Predictor” reminds us that not so long ago, a woman needed her husband’s permission to get a pregnancy test, it was done through a doctor, and it took weeks to get the results.

Based on true events, “Predictor” tells the story of Meg Crane (Caitlin Cavannaugh), a graphic designer hired by a pharmaceutical company in the late 1960s to manage a line of aloe vera products. Following a tour of the company’s lab, she’s struck with the idea of creating an at-home pregnancy test. As she pursues its development, she faces challenges from every establishment, including corporate culture, patriarchal attitudes, religion and politics.

That might not sound like a good time at the theater, but playwright Jennifer Blackmer has crafted an amazingly entertaining script by utilizing pop-culture elements of the 1960s and ‘70s. One could compare the style of “Predictor” to the recent Netflix movie “Unfrosted,” which employs extreme absurdity to tell the story of how Pop-Tarts were developed. However, “Predictor” is the superior work because it balances absurdity with gravitas.

Scenes flip quickly between Crane’s external life, her childhood memories and her imagination. It’s quite the imagination: Elements of game shows, sitcoms, news programs and educational films reflect Crane’s internal dialogue. Six actors serve as the “chorus,” each keenly switching between multiple characters.

The entire ensemble is solid, but a few standout moments deserve highlighting. Mona Eldahshoury is a firebrand as Crane’s roommate, constantly pushing her toward independence and reminding her of the importance of her project. Eldahshoury also delivers one of the play’s most heartbreaking performances as Lillian, a quietly desperate woman from the company’s typing pool who seeks Crane’s help.

Another devastating scene occurs in flashback when Crane’s mother (Kamara Miller Drane) is informed of her first pregnancy. Ryan Patrick Welsh’s portrayal of the doddering old doctor is hilarious, peppering his patient with advice while Drane sits in a daze, doubt and fear playing out across her face.

Welsh provides some explosive action as Jack Mullins, a chauvinistic company man who can’t stand challenges to his authority. Welsh and Tobin Hissong have two of the juiciest roles as narrators for an educational film on menstruation, which is playing in Crane’s head as she falls for advertising executive Ira (James Kuhl).

The play’s design team has created a groovy environment, incorporating Jeromy Hopgood’s stylish background projections, Thalia Lara’s hip set and Shannon T. Schweitzer’s skillful lighting. Another key design element is Mona Jahani’s costuming, especially one colorful costume change symbolizing Crane’s growing empowerment.

In a YouTube interview, Blackmer noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade accelerated her completion of the play because it was important to get “Predictor” out into the world. She’s right, it is an important story. Despite some adult language and uncomfortable topics, this play is a perfect cautionary tale to show young adults how far we’ve come as a society and how far back we could go come Nov. 5.


Through Aug. 4

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday

2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; July 24 and 31

Williamston Theatre

122 S. Putnam St., Williamston

(517) 655-7469



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