It’s been years since most of us were surprised by radio jocks blabbing about every peeve and persuasion that drifted through their heads. Howard Stern is starring in his own flick--now that’s mainstreaming.
But back in the mid-1980s, talk radio in its many shades (shock radio, bark radio, spleen radio) was a new deal. The world of pleasant, music-oriented gab was being invaded by something more personal and outrageous, and that was both exciting and disturbing to listeners.
Eric Bogosian tapped into that phenomenon in 1987 with “Talk Radio,” a play later turned into an Oliver Stone movie. Cutting edge in those days, the dark comedy is dated now, victim of a culture that can turn the provocative into the barely interesting in a matter of days. Just look at Dennis Rodman.
Director Pilou Chapeaud and the cast at Orange Coast College’s Repertory Theatre Company work hard to make us ignore the aging quality of “Talk Radio.”
Timothy C. Todd is at the center as Barry Champlain, and he works the hardest.
Champlain, who was in part modeled after slain Denver talk-jock Alan Berg, has a fourth-gear mouth and is equal parts self-absorbed and self-loathing. He loves to hear himself talk but, on reflection, can’t stand what he’s just said.
When his fans dial him during his radio show, he slices them up, then cuts them off. If you don’t agree with Barry, you don’t stay on the air long. Even if you agree with him and his political-social ramblings, there’s a good chance you’ll be dismissed. Self-hate makes a guy impatient.
Todd doesn’t offer a layered performance; his cranky delivery only hints at the little devils battling with the tiny angels in Barry’s swollen head. But Todd is good at the anger. His Champlain has palpable disdain for everybody and everything in this small world he’s created on-air.
Todd gets decent help in a few of the supporting roles. Eric Hamme provides a spasm of fun as a doped-out heavy-metal kid who crashes Barry’s program on the eve of it being picked up nationally. He’s like a skinny Chris Farley, confused in both brain and body.
Also solid are James Hart as Gary’s steady right-hand man, Sid, and Shannon Birk as his insightful girlfriend/assistant, Linda. Steve Howe doesn’t yield to smarmy cliches in his portrayal as Dan, Champlain’s cynical producer.
Chapeaud and Jamie Sweet’s set and lighting aren’t inventive; they’re simple and functional, which doesn’t detract but also doesn’t add to the nervy proceedings.
* “Talk Radio,” Orange Coast College Drama Lab Studio, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday 7 p.m. Ends Sunday. $5. (714) 432-5640. Running time: 2 hours.
James Hart: Sid Greenberg
Curt Swisher: Bernie
Alex Laverde: Stu Noonan
Shannon Birk: Linda McArthur
Timothy C. Todd: Barry Champlain
Steve Howe: Dan Woodruff
Jen Ortiz: Helen
Eric Hamme: Kent
Fatima: Susan Fleming
Darcy Blakesly: Fleming’s assistant
An OCC Repertory Theatre Company production of Eric Bogosian’s play. Directed by Pilou Chapeaud. Set/lighting: Chapeaud and Jamie Sweet. Sound: Chapeaud. Stage manager: Jami McCoy.