You’re driving home from the late shift, searching your radio dial for something to keep you awake and all of a sudden, you hear some joker commenting on something that he obviously knows nothing about to somebody else who knows even less.
You “accidentally” find the same station the next night, and the next, and the next -and pretty soon, you’re not only talking back to your radio, you’re trying to call in and air your views and – Bingo! – you’re hooked!
And there you have the plot to Pierce College Theatre’s current production, “Talk Radio,” by Eric Bogosian.
Barry Champlain is a cynical, know everything or nothing fraud who holds his audience by spouting his dislike for everything they stand for. His own life seems to revolve only around his show; in fact, perhaps he has no life but the show.
Certainly the people who call have very little life or they’d be doing something constructive with their time. But the opening night audience seemed just as hooked as the callers.
Director Patrick Daugherty also designed the set, which resembles a typical radio studio of the ’80s, complete with sound booth. Instead of using the permanent seating, Daugherty has set in folding chairs two rows deep on three sides of the edge of the stage making this a very intimate theatre. This poses a slight problem with sight lines since the stage is about three feet high.
Daugherty has cast eight people to play the 31 off-stage callers. These Night Callers are E’Lois Davis, Lynn Geyer, Andrew Richards, Sharon Russell, Hongda Sao, Mallory Shoemaker, McKee Sitts and Katie Wheeler. Each has managed to alter their tone of voice or added accents so the audience isn’t quite certain that there aren’t actually 31 different people behind the backstage curtain.
Some of these hidden voices also have on-stage roles. Shoemaker is Spike, one of the booth technicians; Richards is Bernie, a general assistant; Wheeler is Cyd, a fast-talking investment adviser; Sitt is Kent, a half-crazed, doped up caller who wangles a visit to the show; and Geyer is Dr. Susan, who ends the play with her advice program.
There are four main on-stage roles. Megan Monteer is Linda, another booth techie; she does a very nice job on a monologue.
Whitney Blake does good work as Fran, the show’s producer who pops in and out as worried producers are wont, exuding her trepidations about the show’s impending move to a national hookup.
Fionna Larcom is Liz, an assistant producer. She is one of the stronger members of the cast who shows an excellent understanding of her character and plays her to the hilt.
But “Talk Radio” belongs to Blake York as Barry Champlain, the show’s host. This young man turns in a performance well beyond his years. In his self-evaluation closing monologue, York gives the audience the adventure of a theatre moment when an actor shines.
“Talk Radio” is the final production in the present theatre at the college, which is to be converted into office space during the summer. According to Daugherty, it may be a year or two before the new theatre is ready for performances. During that time, they will find temporary spaces, offering a new facet to the theatre students.
“Talk Radio” continues at Pierce College Theatre on the Fort Steilacoom Campus at 9401 Farwest Drive Saturday, May 12 and the following Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. with 10 a.m. matinees Wednesday and Thursday, May 16 and 17. To make reservations, call the box office at (253) 964-6710.
Come and bask in the glow of Blake York’s performance.
Submitted by Harry Selby