by Jim Murchison
When Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre brought H. G. Wells War of The Worlds to life on radio it created widespread panic through the United States and brought the young wonder kid Orson instant international fame. The Gladstone’s production under the direction of Teri Loretto Valentik is decidedly lighter.
This is the third radio play I've reviewed but the first that has had a Halloween theme. While the set is familiar this is a different sort of fun from the Christmas shows. For the most part the direction of this play has a tongue in cheek goofiness. There are some true moments of drama mixed in. Primarily these occur when the Martians are engulfing all and when the focus shifts to the very serious Orson Welles played by Zach Counsil. Counsil does not try to imitate Orson Welles but he captures his dramatic essence and is omnipresent throughout even when he is in the background.
Michelle Leblanc as Wilmuth, Stranger and others, plays primarily male voices although dressed elegantly in a floor length gown. Good thing this is radio or we would have had a harder time believing it in that gown.
As for the three voices of the radio announcers, they were so effective and believable that they could probably all successfully pursue broadcasting careers if acting doesn't pan out for them. Since Laurence Wall and Dave Gerow already have steady jobs with CBC they will likely keep their day jobs but maybe eke out more opportunities to satisfy the theatre itch. David Holton may have the more difficult decision if selected in the next broadcaster draft. In any event there was an authentic feel to the broadcast although the one gag involving Professor Pierson went on a bit long for my taste.
In radio the real star is often the sound effects that finish the illusion that you are live at the scene. Karen Benoit provides a great deal of fun and spacey scariness particularly playing the theremin. If you aren't familiar with the instrument you will be familiar with the squeaks and squawks and weird whistling sounds that have said space to us since the infancy of audio science fiction dramas.
It should be a fun time for all and it is something that you can take the whole family to. It's a short run so try to make it.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission