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
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.
|The cast of "War of the Worlds" took the audience back in time to 193|
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.
Another newcomer, Cheryl Crummett, who plays a broadcaster,
shows versatility and a flair for comedy as she turns in versions of different
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
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.