Talk Radio

There are two kinds of plays, basically, be they musical, drama, romance, comedy–what have you,  Plotted plays and slice of life plays.  The plotted play gives you the beginning, middle and end of the story, and the slice of life play leaves you to infer what went before and what will come after.

Talk Radio is a slice of life play.  We see Barry Champlain, aptly played by Liev Schreiber, in the role of an edgy talk radio host who fields commentary—generally brusquely and rudely—from callers, and even one live visitor who wreaks a kind of mayhem on the set.  It works because it is tightly produced and directed and well acted.  That is the way with slice of lifers.  They can easily go astray as there is no story to hold them together.  Schreiber plays Champlain.  He is Champlain, and that is the key to the play’s success.  The support characters know they are just there to enhance Schreiber’s performance, which is a shame.  We often see actors who personify the saying “There are no small roles, only small actors.”  No matter the role, an actor can usually add something to the words which makes him or her stand out.  Emoting is easy.  Acting less so.

So it is Levi Schreiber, who won a Tony award for his performance in Glengarry Glen Ross, who is left to carry the play.  Let me add a caveat to that.  One of Champlain’s listeners materializes at the studio, in response to an offhand invitation and he gives the play a shot of energy.  The visitor, Kent, played by Sebastian Stan jolts our attention from Barry Champlain for the first time—really the only time—as he stands up to the forbidding celebrity of Schreiber’s character.  Schreiber, showing his fine acting skills, engages the young man with real dramatic interface.

Talk Radio is a show worth seeing.  I recommend it.  It is at the Longacre theatre on 48th Street.