Thursday, October 25, 2012

RCP’s ‘War of the Worlds' is fun for the whole family


The cast of "War of the Worlds" took the audience back in time to 193
By Cheryl Thornburg

It was Oct. 30, 1938 when Orson Wells first broadcast the now historic “War of the Worlds” on the radio. Based on the H.G. Wells science fiction novella, the radio drama captivated its audience – and panicked some because they had not heard the intro and thought the Martian invasion was real.
Reading Community Players’ current production about that show gives the audience an inside look at how such shows were produced with cast members creating the sound effects and taking turns stepping up to a microphone to deliver their lines.
It took me back to a kinder, gentler time, even though America was on the verge of war. Radio staffers and actors at WRCP greeted each other warmly as they arrived at work and set about to entertain their unseen audience.
And entertain they did – as do the current actors as they take on Wells’ characters and story.
Director Pat Perfect has assembled a talented cast of both veterans and newcomers to the RCP stage.
Charles Gallagher
Veteran Charles Gallagher does double duty for this show, playing both Orson Wells and an observer, with his usual skill and control. Playing a well-known actor is not easy and Gallagher nails it.
Newcomer Scott Kunkle turns in a dynamite performance as Dr. Pierson, the scientist called in to try and explain what’s happening with the “explosion” on Mars and the subsequent object the crashes into a farmer’s field in Virginville near Allentown.  The use of familiar local place names is a nice touch.
Cheryl Crummett
Another newcomer, Cheryl Crummett, who plays a broadcaster, shows versatility and a flair for comedy as she turns in versions of different characters.
Bill Brosey is impressive as the Secretary of the Interior trying to keep things under control;
Geoff Littlefield plays both a CBS executive and the farmer who owns the field and particularly shines  as the latter as he tries to tell his story.
Diann Stewart, Ruth Martelli and Jen Glass seem to be having as much fun on stage as the sound technicians as the audience does watching them and how the various sounds are made.
Many of the actors play multiple roles and through subtle voice changes create different characters.  Rounding out this versatile cast are Kevin Wade as Carl Phillips and a stranger, Chad Heim as a broadcsater, and John Plummer as a policeman and General Smith.
Almost in a little play of their own, Jerre Boyer Richards and Maggie Perfect, Pat’s granddaughter, “listen” to the broadcast on a small set to the side of the stage.  They stay in character throughout the show, even before the other actors take the stage.
Also adding tremendously to the show is Sid Watts who produces all the musical interludes. His re-creation of the big band sounds of the era adds another dimension to the production.

This show was really fun to watch, but to be honest, I might like to see it again – but with my eyes closed so I could experience what “War of the Worlds” sounded like to the listeners so long ago.

"War of The Worlds" continues this weekend at the RCP theater, 403 North 11th St., Reading.  Shows start at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday.  There is a free shuttle from the Citadel on 12th Street (smaller parking lot, not the gated one) that transports patrons to and from the theater.  All tickets for this show are $10. For more information, call 610-375-9106

Note: With special permission, RCP was able to collaborate with Berks Community TV in a very unique way.  A camera crew from BCTV taped a dress rehearsal of War of the Worlds on Sept. 26 for rebroadcast on the local station as a special Halloween treat.


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