Theater didn’t kill the “Radio Star”

Presented by Red House Arts Center

Location 201 S. West St., Syracuse

When October 6, 7, 8 @ 8 p.m.

Runtime: 50 minutes, no intermission

Tickets $15 members/$20 non-members

Review by Leah Stacy

Radio Star” is downright scandalous.

It aligns perfectly with Red House Arts Center‘s Red Light Series, a collection of “cutting edge performances honoring the tradition of the Redhouse as the heart of the ‘Red Light’ district.”

But forget cutting edge; “Radio Star” might be the funniest show this town has seen in years.

From the moment writer/performer Tanya O’Debra walks onstage and sits down, she commands the audience. She never leaves her chair. Behind the vintage microphone, her cherry red lips create the voices of ten different characters, and the audience is transported back in time exactly 70 years, when “it’s 1941, you twit, even newborn babies smoke.”

This is the land of Dick Tracy. The Shadow. Crackling radio broadcasts. “Radio Star” follows Nick ‘Private Dick’ McKittrick as he solves the Case of the Long-Distance Lover.

Innuendo, wit and hilarity ensue.

Tanya O’Debra is spellbinding as she takes on the vocal inflections and facial expressions of a middle-aged Scottish policeman, a flaky secretary from Brooklyn, a bumbling nerd and even a hobbit-like ‘manservant’ who slurps and pants. In between scenes, she reenacts old time commercials.

She’s sexy and confident, especially as the crudely casanovanic detective. She’s also sitting very close to the audience, a challenge in any comedic role.

It’s no surprise, then, that this one woman show was nominated for three New York Innovative Theatre Awards, Best English Language Production and Just For Laughs Best Comedy; it has also appeared at Fringe festivals (most recently San Francisco, where it won Best Show).

But not another word can be written without giving credit to J. Lincoln Hallowell, O’Debra’s onstage sound effects man. Donned in a suit and brown and white wingtips, Hallowell executed doors closing, footsteps and cocktail glasses, all with live props.

Marbles dropping in a glass become ice cubes, sandbags hitting the floor become a dropping body.

Rounding out the “Radio Star” team is artistic director Peter James Cook and composer Andrew Mauriello, who wrote original period music for the show. His jazzy tunes lend an air of mystery and suspense to the action.

“Radio Star” finishes in under an hour, but it’s the perfect amount of time for a production with minimal stage movement. In addition to the show’s entertainment, Redhouse encourages patrons to bring a glass of wine or beer to their seats.

Free this weekend? Well, maybe you were. Go see it.

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