Sit back, close your eyes and surrender 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 in Jewel Box Theatre's current production.
Artistic director Chuck Tweed, in collaboration with director Linda McDonald, visits cyberspace for several pre-television radio plays and presents them along with a few commercials as “Mystery Radio Plays.”
The four scripts — “The Thought,” “Alive in the Grave,” “The Undead” and “Operation Tomorrow” — are each about 30 minutes in length and are spread over two acts.
With excellent support from stage manager James Gordon, McDonald handles the cast beautifully. Richard Howell has designed a wonderful set including accurate sound effects that should be the envy of every radio station in the country.
However, this idea is flawed in execution. To set up the presentation, an introduction precedes each act as a prologue. The green room of a fictional radio station in Oklahoma City covers the entire Jewel Box 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 setup, while poorly staged, is nicely conceived, but the follow-through is nonexistent. Audience members are frustrated with no epilogue.
Jane Hall as established radio actress Lana Linn is marvelous in her tiff with Chris Harris as Blanche Archer. In this age-old competition, there is never 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 station manager Sheldon Ellis able to cope with the new medium of television? Glen Hallstrom's characterization is quite accurate. Joe Bear, the former OU football star, is played by Mike Parker. 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 only knows that Archer is played by the debonair and handsome Lance Reese. The twinkle in his eye will always get the girl.
— Elizabeth Hurd