Bricolage’s Midnight Radio series is in its third season this year; if you don’t know what Midnight Radio is, well…think of an old time radio program, complete with sound effects, and now imagine that you are watching it being made on a sound stage, throw in a strong dose of very local humor, zap with a lot of energy, and…you get the picture. The series offers up a heap of various theatrical pleasures, including: watching actors make lightning-fast vocal changes between characters, seeing the creative and wierd solutions the Bricolage team has devised to create a variety of sound effects, enjoying good comic writing, and belonging to an audience of happy, charged-up fans.
Most of the shows in the series (I hesitate to call them plays, since, in fact, they are a mishmash of ads, music, song, sketches, and stories) are aimed at an adult audience; for the first time this season Bricolage is experimenting with a ‘family friendly’ version at a matinee time. The cleaned-up show was a lot of fun, but it didn’t have the same energy and bite that the adult shows I’ve attended in the past had. That may in part be due to the fact that the audience was relatively small (not just in stature, as might be expected, but also in number)–a lot of the series’ vibrancy has to do with the enthusiasm that a packed house of regulars brings to the show–but it may also have to do with the difficulty of pitching the material (which draws on an historical knowledge of the radio play, and, like, who under 30 listens to the “radio”?) to a very young set. I’d say that I was uncertain whether or not the experiment worked, except for the fact that I received the following two anonymous reviews from a couple of young audience members who obviously liked it:
“Midnight Radio: Superhero Edition! was hilarious and a great play. I especially liked the madlib radio minute. My favorite character was Superman. The funniest part was when Aunt Mag came in and pretended to cook. I would recommend this show for other kids.”
“Midnight Radio: Superhero Edition! was random in a way that wasn’t truly random but seemed random. It was pretty cool. I liked it a lot. I particularly liked the sound effects, because I thought that they mimicked the sound that they were supposed to mimic, and I liked the way they did the sound effects by banging on shoes and other items. I liked how their voices would change depending on what character they needed to play. My favorite actor was Tami Dixon because she was funny and used a lot of irony in her characters and was very multitasking. I can’t think of a best moment because I thought the whole play was really good.”
There you go. Take the kids, they will likely never have seen anything like this before, and you’ll have a good time, too. Bricolage will be offering another family matinee Saturday June 25, as part of the Downtown Heroes Block Party. (If you don’t have kids, you’ll probably enjoy the evening show more). The cast–Elena Alexandratos, James FitzGerald, Patrick Jordan, Jason McCune, and Angela M. Vesco as “Aunt Mag”–is uniformly excellent; I particularly liked McCune’s broken-voiced annoying guy, Alexandratos’s breathy anthropologist heroine, FitzGerald’s Australian sidekick, and Jordan’s Nazi robo-woman in Gab Cody’s radio play Ultra Guy & the Jungle of Doom, and I continue to marvel at Vesco & Jordan’s ability to nail the Pixburgh accent in the running Aunt Mag gag/gig (I aspire to be able to get that accent down one day, I really do). As my young correspondent notes, Dixon is ironic, funny, and a whiz on the sound effects. The music by Sam McUmber is perfect, the writing (by Cody, Dixon, Vesco, Gayle Pazerski, and Brad Stephenson) sharp, and the direction (Jeff Carpenter) energetic and precise.
Off air in three…two…one…