by Beki Pineda
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS – Adapted by Joe Landry from the original radio script by Howard Koch; Directed by Kevin Flomberg-Rollins. Produced by Lost and Found Productions (presented at the Hand Theatre, 7653 East 1st Place, Denver) through August 18. Tickets available at 303-477-5977 or lostandfoundproductions.net.
Nearly everyone – regardless of age – has heard of the first example of “fake news” – the infamous radio broadcast that set off panic in the streets with the listening public thinking that New York had been invaded by deadly aliens. Orson Welles and John Houseman created the Mercury Theatre of the Air to transpose classic books and stories into radio plays. They hired writer Howard Koch to bring H.G. Wells’ popular book – THE WAR OF THE WORLDS – to verbal and audio life. Listeners tuned into an evening of “light music” which was quickly interrupted by reports of space ships landing in New Jersey dispensing giant creatures spouting death rays.
Announcements were made periodically throughout the broadcast proclaiming the fictional origin of the story. As people are wont to do, many in the radio audience heard what they wanted to hear (or missed the announcements) and fell into a state of panic. Originally aired in 1938 on the brink of America entering World War II, an invasion from the skies or sea was all too readily accepted.
The current production details the events leading up to the broadcast, portions of the airing itself, and the incredulous events after the fact. It did propel Orson Welles from relative obscurity to overnight celebrity.
The four actors – Seth Palmer Harris, Eddie Schumacher, Dee Jimenez and Sadie Gracelynn Trigg – under the leadership of Director Kevin Flomberg-Rollins did an admirable job of adopting a variety of physical and vocal characteristics to portray all the people involved. They look and sound like people from 1949 as they re-enact the fateful night on its tenth
anniversary. The original broadcast used twelve actors; these four talented actors did the work of twelve. Seth morphs into a smooth and confident Orson Welles seamlessly. Eddie’s breathless reporting of the giant invaders puts you in the middle of the action. Sadie does double duty providing multiple voices AND creating the sound effects that accompanied the action. Dee Jimenez got the voice and attitude of a confident, somewhat arrogant over-articulating actor down pat. Even Andrew KC Nicholas, the stage manager, got into the act by counting down the start times and contributing to the radio aspects of the production.
Special kudos to Brian Rollins and Rick Reid for the excellent sound track provided of crowd noises, explosions, and “monster death ray” attacks that added greatly to the excitement.
An enjoyable evening that will – for a short time – take you from 2018 too 1938.
A Wow factor of 8!