Eventide's Hilarious Take On The Golden Age Of Radio

By: Ellen Petry Whalen

Topics: Local Theater

A scene from “Radio Ridiculous” at the Eventide Theatre Company. COURTESY PHOTO

Some titles only hint at a play’s storyline, if at all, while others perfectly encapsulate it. Eventide Theatre Company’s “Radio Ridiculous” falls into the latter category, with the title highlighting the parody’s amusing take on the golden age of radio.

Set in 1940, the energetic comedy is presented in a live radio-broadcast format with six actors performing over 60 roles. When not needed in a scene, the rest of the cast either sits or helps out with the amusing sound effects, adding to the realism and laughter. Mirroring radio programming, the comedy consists of three long skits and a few shameless commercials, running for two hours.

Stephen Ross plays Frank Wackenhammer, who marks the start of the broadcast by exaggeratedly announcing the show’s title—“Radio Ridiculous”—with a drawn-out flair. In the first skit, “Sorry, You’ve Got My Wrong Number” (a parody of “Sorry, Wrong Number”), he convincingly plays the murderous and mentally challenged side-kick, generating many laughs.

In this skit, Beebe (Leigh Wilson) is the voice of the “helpless invalid.” Her character happens to overhear a murder plot during a misdialed phone call but is unable to elicit any help from the bureaucratic phone operators or the police. In one funny exchange, pointing out the phone company’s blatant prejudice against handicapped people, the homebound woman astutely points out, “Our president uses a wheelchair.” To which the condescending manager (Barry Lew) replies, “But it doesn’t mean he’d be hired by the phone company.”

Cleo Zani delivers the New York City detective’s lines with excellent comic timing and a spot-on New York accent. Janet Geist-Moore delightfully portrays the snarky operator, who has to search through phone company forms to find the right one to report a murder. And rounding out the cast, Thomas Crutchfield gives voice to “the cripple’s” cat, entertainingly voicing the feline’s many emotions through various replies of “meow.”

The two other silly skits include a take on a Vaudeville act called “The Wacko Brothers Show” and the “Condescended Classics Hour: A Tale of Two Miserables”—a combined spoof on “Les Miserables” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Director Toby Wilson keeps the laughs rolling in this fast-paced comedy. The cast is highly professional, making the task of switching from character to character, sometimes within seconds, seem surprisingly easy. Their many accents, including British and French, are wonderful exaggerations, especially when denoting the differences between the upper echelon and the poor.

The set’s walls are lined with old-fashioned posters from radio shows and war propaganda. Amy Canaday's costume designs are fashionably reminiscent of the period, especially the women’s brightly colored dresses.

Playwright Rich Orloff’s original show is captivating on many levels. I envisioned closing my eyes to get the true sense of a radio program, but the actors’ facial expressions, as they prepared to play a new character or perform, were too priceless to miss. Additionally, I was drawn to the other actors, as they humorously made the various background sounds, like dropping a weighted burlap bag, to imitate the sound of someone falling down dead, or the tapping of coconuts together to produce the sound of a horse trotting.

Eventide’s “Radio Ridiculous” is memorably acted and filled with wit, humor and sexual innuendo. It is a zany homage to simpler times when the depth of a story was only limited by one’s imagination.

“Radio Ridiculous”
At Eventide Theatre Company, 713 Route 6A, Dennis
Through Sept. 22
Information and reservations: 508-398-8588, www.eventidearts.org