Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some further commentary on Talk Radio

The Broad Street Review recently published my article on New City Stage Company's production of Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio. Here's a teaser:
Eric Bogosian’s 1980s play about a radio talk-show host is as relevant as ever, even in the age of the blogosphere. But Paul Felder is simply too young for the central role.

Not to spoil the ending, but the second-to-last paragraph reads "Director William Roudebush’s choice of Felder as Champlain might really reflect the paucity of Philadelphia actors who could handle the demands of this role. The 27-to-45-year age bracket offers plenty of local talent, but Champlain requires the kind of electrifying, gigantic personality who can prowl the stage like a lion, only to crumble later beneath the weight of his own cynical despair. I can’t think of many Philadelphia actors who fill that bill. "

I'd like to clarify that point here with the following short list of actors that other knowledgeable theatre professionals and theatregoers have suggested.

Ian Merrill Peakes: Probably received the most recommendations, but I strongly disagree for the same reason that I enjoyed Peakes in Theatre Exile's Red Light Winter, but didn't like him as Iago in Pennsyvania Shakespeare's production of Othello. To me, he taints all of his performances with this semi-likeable (or at least, socially enviable) frat-boy persona. Even his 1920's artist character in The Walnut Street Theatre's production of Enchanted April displayed this characteristic. When he can show me a performance that lacks any connotations of Stiffler, I'll change my mind about Peakes' overrated abilities.

However, Peakes definitely possesses machismo in abundance--for any director who decides to go that way (by contrast, see the level of demorarlizing, poignant introspection that Oliver Stone drew out of Bogosian's own performance in the movie version of Talk Radio.)

Seth Reichgott: In my opinion, one of the best character actors in the city. (In my review, I called him "the best." However, hyperbole might suffice in a review, but in reality, if I had to pick one it woudl be either Reichgott or Tim Moyer.) It's why he gets cast so often, and so well, but also defines his limits. This is apparent even in the Lantern's current Government Inspector, where he ostensibly plays the second male lead, but can't match the versatility of Luigi Sottile or (especially) Anthony Lawton.

Jared Reed: Definitely versatile enough for the role, and most likely capable of displaying the psychological complexity Bogosian's part demands. But I've never seen him tower over a performance with the kind of looming, dangerous pathos that Talk Radio requires (For those who haven't seen Bogosian's play, in a pivotal scene, the character of Barry Champlain displays the bravado/lunacy--and fright--to open a possible mail bomb. For the record, Felder did this well at New City.)

John Zak: With the exception of The Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival's The Tempest, (where he won a Barrymore Award for his performance as the grotesque Caliban), I've seen Zak play mostly humorous parts that capitalize on a seemingly shape-shifting persona (one that eerily mirrors Caliban, minus the monstrosity), but since then, all humor. Maybe a good second choice.

Jered McLenigan: After seeing him read the part of Stanley Kowalski in EgoPo's reading of A Streetcar Named Desire, I wasn't sold on his "Stella!" but was sold on his ability to be both masculine and weak, confident and insecure. I don't know if he was working during New City's production or if they auditioned him. But he stands as my first choice. Plus, unlike Felder, he's over 30.

Scott Greer: Go see him in 1812's current Cherry Bomb. Then see New City's Talk Radio. Greer's right for the role (if he can tone down his booming personality enough), but he would have outstripped and too far outshone the rest of the cast at 1812--something that Felder (to his and director Bill Roudebush's credit) didn't do. (Though Felder did this, but unintentionally, at Act 2's recent Magnetic North, where even a good actress like Christie Parker received so much poor direction that Felder was the only person on stage worth watching.)

Chris Patrick Mullen: For anyone who saw his John Proctor in People's Light and Theatre's recent The Crucible, it's clear that the role of Barry Champlain would almost waste Mullen's talents.

Of course, I'd welcome any other suggestions.

No comments: