Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Talk Radio--No Walk in the Park

New York

The quote pretty much sums up the vitriol of radio icon, Barry Champlain ( Liev Shreiber ), in Talk Radio. The play is a revival of playwright Eric Bogosian, and it played originally at the Public Theater to rave reviews twenty years ago.

Instead of being plot driven, this play is all about the brilliant but terribly confused, existential talk show host who spends his time on stage berating his callers. Callers range from an adolescent threatening suicide who Champlain invites down to the studio, sure the kid is bluffing, to a racist caller who he goads, then blasts before cutting the call off.

During the 100 minutes of uninterrupted acting, Shreibner is magical, moving around the simple stage ( the background is the glassed cubicles of the production crew and the office of the station manager ), intermittently digging into his desk drawer for a bottle of Dewar's which he drinks straight out of the bottle or periodically walking off set to do a couple of lines of cocaine.

By the end of the play, you could almost feel the audience sigh collectively at the the playwright's dark message. There are, suggests Bogosian, a lot of bottom feeders in our culture who prey on prejudice, love being the voyeur, thrive on passing judgment of anyone or anything but themselves.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. But, fair warning. It's a little like reading Camus' "Being and Nothingness". So, buyer beware!
And Shreiber, nominated for a Tony Award for his performance, delivered one of the best pieces of acting I've seen on Broadway in a couple of years.

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