H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, a Radio Drama | Jefferson Memorial Park | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, a Radio Drama Free New Review (Theater and Comedy) The Short List (Theater) Recommended Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Oct. 31-Nov. 2 2013

Orson Welles caused a panic in 1938, with his Halloween-eve radio broadcast based on the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds. H.G.'s book tells the story of a Martian invasion of England--pitiless red-planet minions stomping around the country in huge armored pods, deploying heat rays and poisonous black smoke against a helpless populace. The version that Orson directed and starred in transplanted the tale to America's northeast seaboard and, in its first half, used the conceit of emergency news breaks ("we interrupt our program of dance music . . .") to give a play-by-play of Armageddon. Listeners went nuts, thinking it was all true. Orson had to publicly apologize. Now the Gift Theatre is presenting a live, staged performance of the 75-year-old succes de scandale. The eight-piece band was under-rehearsed on opening night and director Michael Patrick Thornton tries too hard to give a visual component to what's basically an audio experience. But the cast, led by Gift ensemble members Ed Flynn and Alexandra Main, make it all too clear why the 1938 show scared the bejezus out of people. Moments when radio voices go literally dead are especially creepy. --Tony Adler