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Review: Talk Radio, at the Old Red Lion

First rate production tells story of shock joke on brink of cracking up

07 September, 2017 — By Jack Courtney O’Connor

Matthew Jure and Andy Secombe in Talk Radio [PHOTO: Cameron Harle]

HAVING rid myself of a television recently, I have become addicted to talk-in radio, especially on a night when I cannot get any shut-eye. So, 30 years after it was first performed Off Broadway, Eric Bogosian’s Pulitzer prize-nominated play makes quite an impact. Not only on insomniacs like myself, but also on the modern digital user audience.

This is a first-rate production directed by Sean Turner with Matthew Jure as Cleveland’s cracking-up shock-jock Barry Champlain. His listeners are invited to phone in and argue how to solve the problems facing mid-80s USA.

How they use the late-nite format, coming from his radical viewpoint is an anathema, however. Bogosian, who is also an actor and took the lead role when the play was first staged, was inspired to write Talk Radio after the Jewish-American shock-jock Alan Berg was murdered in his driveway by a member of a right-wing anti-semitic group. Berg goaded right-wing nutters to phone in using free air time to promote their fascistic views in order to flush them out.

The play opens with Champlain on the eve of national syndication pulling many strokes, including attacking one of the advertiser’s products and inviting a dopey (literally) young male listener (nicely played by actor and presenter Cel Spellman) onto the show against the wishes of the producer (Andy Secombe).

Champlain pulls it off, but when the dope overplays his hand and is chased out of the studio by the floor manager (George Turvey) he is left in an empty studio to face his own demons. There’s an odd wayward accent and an overlong dramatic pause, but the production team has done a terrific job creating a Talk-in environment! Next caller…

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