Making airwaves: “Talk Radio” marks a huge success for the theater deaprtment

Emily Cohen

As the audience members walked into Studio 248 at the Williams Arts Campus, they were immediately transported to Cleveland, Ohio, 1987. In front of them, Danny Guadalupe ‘16, playing Sid Greenberg, a talk show host, casually prattled on about taxes. People looked around slightly confused. One could not quite tell if they were entering during the cast’s warmups, or if this was part of the show. As people took their seats, the buzz died down and Guadalupe signed off the air.

The show told the story of Barry Champlain, a talk show host for his show, “Nighttalk.” A national station, Vistacom, was picking up the show, extremely popular because of Champlain’s unfiltered and often controversial responses to his callers. On the episode of the show that was “airing” during the performance, Champlain’s boss, Dan Woodruff, played by Brian Brundage ‘18, warned Champlain to give a good show tonight to ensure Vistacom would keep their end of the deal. As ridiculous callers phoned in, from boyfriends whose imaginary girlfriends overdosed, to a man eating dinner with his cat, to a young pregnant girl, to someone who was afraid of her mother’s garbage disposal, Vistacom certainly heard quite a show that night.

At one point, deranged caller Kent, played by Gavin Knox ‘17, came onto the show as a guest star. Knox played the role of this dopey teenager extremely well. At one point, he proved his fascination with Champlain in a very comical bit where he mimicked Champlain’s every action.

The set used the actual light booth that is built into the studio theater. Stu Noonan, played by Andrew Morra ’17, and Spike, played by Jessica Cavanaugh ‘17, manned the station’s sound and callboards. It was really neat, because they were simultaneously calling light cues and sound cues of the actual show, while also acting as workers at the radio station onstage. The entire show was littered with clever ideas like this.

The conversations between Champlain and the callers were very enjoyable. The callers were never shown; rather, their voices were heard overhead. Champlain indicated that they were “on the air” by flicking a switch at his desk, which lit up a sign indicating so. The cues were seamless throughout. Because the callers were backstage, the show was able to cast each actor as several different callers. I was so impressed with the range of voices that each actor mastered. There was everything from a transgender woman named Francine, played by Luis Aviles ‘17, to a Spanish woman, to a country man.

I really liked the structure of the show. Every time there was a commercial break in the talk show, the characters would interact amongst each other, presenting an entirely separate storyline to us. Champlain’s love interest, Linda MacArthur, played by Emi Nicholson ‘16, gave a monologue about her rocky and somewhat depressing relationship with Champlain. One of her telling lines read, “Barry Champlain is a nice place to visit, but I’d never want to live there.”

The other monologues in the show, given by Stu and Dan, revolved around this theme that Champlain was not the confident, untouchable man he portrayed on the air.

Erin Hopwood designed the costumes, hair and makeup. Each cast member looked like they stepped right out of a time machine. From Linda MacArthur’s golden hoops and teased hair, to Barry Champlain’s sloppy cutoff sweatshirt, every costume was perfect.

Joseph Rothschild ‘16 played Barry Champlain. His performance was truly admirable, and he delivered every line effortlessly. I was very impressed with the way he ate and drank on set. He chewed fries, took shots of half and half, made drinks and sipped coffee, all while maintaining his cynical character and very tedious lines. Rothschild, a theater and English double major will be using his experience as the lead of “Talk Radio” in his senior thesis.

The show ended as it began. Rothschild left the office for the night, and Liza Fryman ‘16, playing Dr. Susan Fleming, sat down to begin her evening talk show. The studio theater’s doors were opened as an indication to the audience that the show was over. However, many people seemed to feel too uncomfortable to leave while Fryman continued her monologue. It took a while for the entire audience to empty, as though the world of the show went on, regardless of what the audience chose to do.