Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: "Midnight Radio 3-Superhero Edition" at Bricolage. -Sunday 19th June 2011

Bricolage Production Company keeps on coming up with original theatre ideas. Now, returning to the air waves and eyefuls, comes Midnight Radio 3, tuning up the tubes and tunes with Episode 1-Superhero Edition!

This boisterous experience stays right in keeping with Bricolage’s explorations of the edgy reaches of theatre space, which certainly have developed regular followings.

Clearly, the aim is for everyone to have fun with an emphasis on quirky, off-center comedy, rather than endeavoring to literally recreate the essence of bygone styles and sounds of radio when it featured live performances of soap operas, plays, serials, situation comedies and revues. Nonetheless much resembles how things were produced in the old days. A small cast takes on many roles. A remarkable array of imaginatively conceived sound effect equipment punches up everything. A multi-instrumentalist plays themes and stingers. Moreover, turning this into a variety show, interludes feature musicians.

Newer twists among the mostly original material are Bricolage script writers’ commercials for far-out fictional products and services along with a few for actual underwriters. Other items include “Fake Breaking News” in this case not a radio newscast as it might have been long ago but rather a spin on personality- driven TV newscasts of today. The performers also sing embellishments and there's an audience quiz. A grab bag punched up with gags, bits and shtick.

Elena Alexandratos, Tami Dixon, James Fitgerald, Patrick Jordan and Jason McCune, as directed by Jeffrey Carpenter, play this at high intensity, the locally well-known, talented stage actors using stage vocal technique instead of making subtle use of what microphones can do. Volume and speed of delivery take over. But, since everyone has to keep moving from microphone to microphone and shifting into different character voices while manipulating sound effect equipment, concentrating on reading the lines with useful, meaningful intonation gets lost in the ether. As if to say, the words can do the job on their own. I don' think they need to move around that much. It looks as if Carpenter did it for visual variety.

Among the more clever elements, stage manager Andrew J. Paul projects visuals, most especially clips from comic books used to point up the stories being performed.

The Ben Opie and Josh Wulf Duo takes center stage twice. Multi-reed player Opie, who’s performed with Anthony Braxton, does some remarkable things with alto sax, clarinet and contrabass clarinet while Wulf explores all kinds of possibilities with an electronically enhanced guitar. Their original conceptions, less deliberately intense than the comedy material, sound worth further hearing.

There will be further installments in the series through November. This feature, Superhero Edition! runs through June 25th at Bricolage, 937 Liberty Avenue. 412/471-0999 plus info at

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