Radio Hysteria | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Radio Hysteria

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Radio Hysteria, Great Beast Theater, at Inner Town Pub. It's hard to explain the continued allure of radio in our age of rapid technological advancement. Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello probably came closest in "Radio Radio": as he put it, "Radio is a sound salvation." It seems the AM/FM dial is like a patient-activated morphine drip, producing a mild narcotic buzz of words and voices at the touch of a finger.

Maybe that's why playwright Matthew Wilson describes the 12 monologues in Radio Hysteria as songs--and they do have an awful lot in common with great pop music, uncovering essential human truths in a compact, catchy way. Certainly Wilson's no stranger to the pull of the radio: every Friday night for nearly a year and a half he performed these monologues and others live on free-form station WZRD.

Deborah King, Amy Eaton, and John Ferrick--who all appeared in Wilson's In the Wreckage during the 1999 Rhino Fest--are especially good, though ultimately Kat McJimsey steals the show with her crafty wordless performances in three scenes. And Wilson's writing is best when he plays around with the conventions of the monologue form: though most of the show thrives on the simple, subtle craft of his writing, in the final, absolutely breathtaking "song" he carves a monologue into five complementary parts.

--Nick Green

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