Ladysmith Little Theatre’s summer feature, a tribute to old-time radio shows, premiered Thursday, July 18.
LLT Radio Troupe’s Theatre of the Mind (TOTM) showcases a pair of radio shows — one a comedy and the other a detective drama — dating back to the 1940s, presented in a style similar to the way in which shows would have been performed live for broadcast before a studio audience, complete with calls for applause and live sound effects.
To add authenticity to the performance, cast members used sacks of potatoes, shoes, toy cars, ball gloves, buckets, coffee mugs and a host of other props to provide live soundscapes for fight scenes, car accidents and a piano repossession gone wrong, with the sound-crafting process unfolding in full view of the audience.
As TOTM’s most novel and dynamic aspect, I was surprised at how little the LLT crew made use of it during their first feature, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe — the Green Flame.
Radio plays were written with a listening audience in mind, so it comes as little surprise that their delivery consists of voice actors standing woodenly in front of their mics, delivering line after line without so much as lifting their eyes from the page. Even when their voice acting is spot-on, an audience acclimatized to film, television and webcasts is left with a sense that there’s something missing when a fight scene breaks out in the middle of a detective drama without a single punch being thrown.
But, the antics of the sound crew are there to fill in the visual gap, offering audience members something to watch as crew members slam footballs into baseball gloves to create the illusion of Marlowe exchanging punches with a shady foe, for example.
While Marlowe would have benefitted from a more polished, engaged delivery, TOTM’s second feature, the comical, pun-riddled Fibber McGee and Molly — Piano Lessons, held its own. With a witty script employing liberal use of puns, alliterations and plays on words, Fibber McGee and Molly offered up plenty of one-liners that left the audience groaning and laughing at the same time.
TOTM is LLT’s first attempt at performing radio plays, and the novelty of a new format shone through on opening night. Aside from a few ill-timed lines or sound effects, the show proved to be an endearing and entertaining introduction to radio plays from a bygone era.
TOTM will be performed as a series of Saturday and Sunday matinees through Aug. 11. Doors will open at 1 p.m. prior to a 2 p.m. curtain time. Tickets are $10 at the door and come free with ice cream sundaes. One child under the age of 12 will be admitted free with each paid adult admission and groups of four or more will be able to reserve “part or all of a table” by calling Gale Lawrence at 250-924-6667.
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