Bricolage has a good thing going with Midnight Radio. It provides local writers with a venue to flex their creative muscles in a short form; it gives local actors an opportunity to stretch themselves vocally; and it offers audiences the pleasure of “paying attention to the man behind the curtain” while at the same time falling under the spell of the wizards in front. I’m a fan of the form — it’s witty and fast-paced, and the inventive ways the Foley team (usually led by Tami Dixon) manages to produce the myriad sound effects is far more interesting than most theatrical staging I see. In fact, I think what I like most about Midnight Radio is its combination of high-level, professional performance aesthetics with a rough-and-ready, DIY vibe — excellent acting in a show that’s not afraid to show (off) its seams.
Cowboys & Aliens is, like previous editions of Midnight Radio, episodic, including an original short play, “Hank and Buster vs Orson Welles,” by Peter J. Roth, “Fake Breaking News” by Brad Stephenson and Gayle Pazerski, an appearance by Angela M. Vesco in her recurring gig as the quintessential Yinzer “Aunt Mag,” and a reading of “The Mimic,” a drama from a 1950 radio program. The writing is fun and solid, although I found myself at moments (particularly during the “Fake Breaking News” section) wishing for a bit more bite to the humor — the comedy here tends to be wry, and the targets a bit soft — and the reenactment of “The Mimic,” an old radio play from the 1950s felt, well…a bit old. The versatile cast includes Jeffrey Carpenter (who also directed), Jason McCune (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite voice actors in town), John McIntire, and Adrienne Wehr, along with Dixon and Vesco. Sam McUmber provides perfect musical accompaniment to the radio show throughout, and guest musical performer Slim Cessna steps in to perform a couple of wonderful quirky songs that fit serendipitously into the Cowboys/Aliens theme.