Fringe review: ‘Radio Star’

Radio Star, Tanya O’Debra, Horse Trade Theater Group, New York, NY. Brown venue, 60 minutes, $10.

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Tanya O'Debra in 'Radio Star'

When you think of old-time radio theater, you think of a whole cadre of people making it happen — the imposing-sound announcer, the stylishly dressed actors and actresses crowded around the microphone, and most important the sound-effects guy, off in a corner with his whistles and bells.

But New York actor Tanya O’Debra does it all herself — or nearly — in Radio Star, a satire of a 1940s-era radio mystery, with O’Debra creatng most of the sound effects and supplying voices for close to a dozen characters on Nick McKittrick, Private Dick.

O’Debra is terrific with voices, and there’s no mistaking the police detective, the secretary, the not-so-grieving widow and so on. It’s fun to hear the commercials for outré products (“Iron Lung Cigarettes guarantee instant popularity”) and to listen for the occasional anachronisms (the inventor who created the Snuggie).

But I have to say that Radio Star’s dialogue is a little too gratuitously coarse for my taste and that the overlying gimmick gets more than a little tiresome. Maybe it’s just that I’m not a mystery person; maybe it’s that the comedy doesn’t build. As a show, Radio Star is a hell of a first act.

Remaining shows:
Monday May 23, 6 p.m.
Wednesday May 25, 5:45 p.m.
Thursday May 26, 8:50 p.m.
Saturday May 28, 9:25 p.m.
Sunday May 29, 4:20 p.m.

2 responses to “Fringe review: ‘Radio Star’

  1. Robert Del Medico

    I loved O’Debra as a performer. Hearing all the unique voices, watching the live creation of radio sound effects was a treat.

    It was a shame that the writing didn’t seem to be cohesive. At some moments a satire of 40’s radio convention, at others a coarse Amy Winehouse-ish modern reinvention of an old trope. It was also easy to get confused when Snuggie and Facebook were referenced, yet during the story the date was referred to as in the 1940s.

    I love ribald, vulgar comedy when done well, but even I felt uncomfortable with the line “Women – can’t live with em…can’t rape em”. Still, I hafta stay O’Debra is a very talented individual, and I still laughed a bit…just wish I could have laughed more.

    • I agree, Rob. Lines like the one you mentioned always put me off. (And the anachronisms were supposed to be funny, but there weren’t enough of them to do anything but confuse people.)

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