The Jack Slate Radio Show, Ego Productions, at the Heartland Studio Theater. Nothing could be further from surround sound and multimedia shows than old-fashioned radio dramas, yet audiences love them. Is it nostalgia? A simple need to stretch our sensory-overloaded imaginations? Whatever the reason, playwrights Lizz Leisser and Tai Palmgren present an opportunity to experience this classic form with four original episodes, one per week, chronicling the adventures of novice private eye Jack Slate (Hilary Schurwanz). Poised behind music stands holding scripts, the seven vocally gifted ensemble members play villains, sirens, cabbies, thugs, and cops at the drop of a fedora (aided by Adam Simon and Ryan Walters, who squeeze, stomp, and poke their way through multiple sound effects).
This is not a pitch-perfect re-creation of golden-age radio, but it works. Writers and cast have thoroughly mastered the “Why, I oughta…” cadences of 40s dialogue, the stories offer comedy and suspense, and the vintage costumes are authentic. Leisser, who directs, needs to declutter some things, like rearranging the players to let the audience see the sound guys: they supply the only real visual activity. Major modulation (or decaf) is also needed–heaps of great moments get lost in the unvarying breakneck pace. Other than that, it’s swell, fellas.