Radio Mystery Plays
Elizabeth Hurd Published: March 11th, 2011
Sit back and close your eyes surrendering to the sweet bliss, not of sleep, but of imagination. Such are the days of the old time radio mystery plays. Let the mind fill in the blanks with wild flights of fancy as actors read fascinating scripts over the magic airways. The Jewel Box Theatre brings us back to our imagination with “Mystery Radio Plays.”
Artistic Director Chuck Tweed in collaboration with Director Linda McDonald visits cyber-space for several pre-television radio plays and presents them along with a few commercials as “Mystery Radio Plays”. All four scripts are approximately one half hour in length and separated into two acts. These excellent episodes are in the public domain and no authors could be found. Unfortunately they can not be credited for work that definitely stands the test of time! The radio plays are: “The Thought”, “Alive in the Grave”, “The Undead” and “Operation Tomorrow”. McDonald directs a cast that does justice to the work – ask anyone who closes their eyes for the first moments of each episode. Minds are wide awake and feeling 40 years younger!
McDonald handles the cast beautifully and with excellent support from Stage Manager, James Gordon. Richard Howell has designed a wonderful set including accurate sound effects paraphernalia that should be the envy of every radio station in the country.
However, this genius idea is flawed in execution. To set up the presentation, an introduction precedes each act as a prologue. The ‘green room’ of fictional radio station KJBX in Oklahoma City is where each act begins. Tweed and McDonald set the green room in the entire Jewel Box thrust stage. Immediately, the action moves to the production of the radio plays. Crowded into a very small elevated space in back, all of the main events are seen across a broad expanse of unused space. The actors handle the intimacy exceptionally well under McDonald’s direction, but the area separating the action from the audience is far too large for far too long.
The set up, while poorly staged, is nicely conceived but the follow-through is non-existent! Audience members are frustrated with no epilogue.
Jane Hall as Lana Linn, established radio actress, is marvelous in her tiff with Chris Harris as Blanche Archer. Two fine actresses portray two fine actresses in an age old competition. Yet we will never have any resolution.
How does Paul Tomlin’s portrayal of the shy Herschel Miller go from a rabbit to a lion? We will never know.
Is WJBX Station Manager Sheldon Ellis able to cope with the new medium of television? Glen Hallstrom’s characterization is quite accurate and his Sheldon Ellis would have advertised.
Joe Bear, the former OU football star, is played by Mike Parker, and both actor and character are great potential sports announcers.
Is Christine Jolly as the beautiful Kitty Cain, going to fall for the next transparent line of Desmond Archer, the leading man with a roving eye? The audience wants to know, but all they do know as they head home humming “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent” is that Desmond Archer is played by the ever debonair and handsome Lance Reese. His twinkle in the eye will always get the girl!
“Mystery Radio Plays” is presented at Jewel Box Theatre through March 27th. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:30. The Jewel Box Theatre is located at the First Christian Church, 3700 N Walker in Oklahoma City. For reservations and information call 405.521.1786 or visit Jewelboxtheatre.org.