March 8-9, 7:30 p.m., March 10 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
Directed by Caleb J. Thompson ’14
Produced by Anne K. Sawyier ’12
and Annie E. M. McGrath ’13
Who doesn’t love a scandal? Shocking tabloid headlines about perverted murder stories, sensationalized break-ups, and pregnant 16-year-olds make great conversational fodder. Eric Bogosian’s 1987 opus “Talk Radio,” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, is a darkly comedic look at media culture. Despite its age, the story of a scandalous late-night Cleveland talk show host remains chillingly relevant to America’s contemporary media and entertainment cultures.
The play follows a tension-filled night on Barry Champlain’s (Phil M. Gillen ’13) popular radio show, “Night Talk.” One by one, Barry railroads his callers and immediately deems them nutty and pathetic with his scathingly sarcastic humor. Among the many callers seeking Barry’s opinion on the air include a sports addict and a veteran both played by Rob A. Knoll ’13. Tensions run high as the entertaining radio show is about to break out from its regional audience and get picked up by an important national broadcasting station.
For a show with a relatively large cast, there is a surprisingly small number of visible actors. “The main character is on stage for essentially the entire play, which is rare for Harvard. Half the dialogue takes place off stage,” says Knoll. This sparceness gives a sense of a radio host alone in his booth interacting through his show with his faceless listeners. His combative tirades are complexly underscored by his straight shooting point of view. As the play progresses, layers in his character are revealed and the recesses of his mind begin to be illuminated. “You see beneath this composed, in-control exterior. His whole life is the show,” says Gillen.
“The ’80s seem pretty tame compared to now, which makes it even more relevant. It’s very much a play for our time,” says director Caleb J. Thompson ’14, a Crimson arts writer. “It’s a satire of modern society.” As Barry grapples with the daunting possibility that his show will merely founder as part of America’s fiery cultural demise, “Talk Radio” holds up a mirror to our scandal-obsessed society. The question is, are we happy with what we see?