Radiotheatre is a kind of reader’s theatre company that presents live performances of the kind heard in radio dramas of the 1930s. Currently they are reviving their rendition of King Kong at the Kraine Theatre, produced under the umbrella of the Horse Trade Theatre Group. What Radiotheatre doesn’t do is recreate the experience a live audience might have had in a studio of the 1930s, but when you close your eyes and just listen––that is the effect.
A cast of five perform all the characters while sound man Eduardo Ramirez sits up stage at a table covered with modern equipment to run all the music and sound effects, as well as a few technical things like a fog machine to add a visual element to the otherwise static staging of actors at music stands to read a script. Actually, the cast generally know their lines, though they turn pages now and then. They are free to really act the script and this adaptation of Merian C. Cooper’s (and a host of others) 1933 screenplay by Dan Bianchi, who is the mastermind behind Radiotheatre’s material, is a verbally vivid rendition.
The production is directed by Frank Zilinyi, who also serves as the narrator and key voice talent. For those familiar with old time radio, Mr. Zilinyi possesses the kind of voice that sounds like it comes directly from the era. He sounds very much like the narrator for the old Lone Ranger program and commands the microphone like Orson Wells. He has given the production ambiance through the smoke effects, lighting effects and a single drop that introduces us to the presence of the Eighth Wonder of the World himself. The production is simple, but extremely creative in all departments.
Heather Gault is the only female in the production and she of course plays the object of Kong’s affection, Ann Darrow. She screams well, but not nearly as much as Fay Wray did, which in the small Krane Theatre is probably a blessing. First mate Jack, another fellow with a crush on Ann, is played with a fine resonant voice and New York accent by Neil Brown. Joshua Nicholson is a rather nerdy and weak version of the film maker Carl Denham, who instigates the entire adventure. He hardly seems like the guy to convince a lot of cynical sailors to follow him on a voyage into uncharted waters. R. Patrick Alberty plays numerous roles including the chief of the natives, giving a serious reading of the made up native tongue, but it is difficult not to snicker at this.
Radiotheatre puts on a variety of programs. Right now there will be more presentations of King Kong through January 15th, but the group also has a repertoire that included versions of Dracula and War of the Worlds. The productions last a little over an hour and make for an interesting and different experience in the theatre. Although it is great fun to watch the actors perform the show live, it is also possible to hear the production on the internet. To hear this production of King Kong go HERE. Being a fan of old time radio, I find this interesting troupe to be a nice contribution to the theatre scene in New York. You’ll enjoy paying them a visit.