The Armageddon Radio Hour | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Armageddon Radio Hour

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THE ARMAGEDDON RADIO HOUR, Level 6, at Body Politic Theatre. During World War II the entertainment industry attempted to quell the fears of an anxious population by pushing an exaggerated cheerfulness. A cursory inspection of popular entertainment today, however, will show this practice to have long since ceased--just try to avoid the news that our society is going to pieces and see how far you get. So it's rather puzzling that the bright young Level 6 comedy troupe should choose to serve up an uneven mix of deadpan parody, ham-handed satire, and stereotypical characterizations grounded in that time, an era familiar these days only to nostalgia buffs and the older set of grandparents.

In The Armageddon Radio Hour, a 1940s-style radio broadcast ostensibly aired just an hour before the apocalypse, the parody works best: a romance serial called "The King of Bedside Manor," frequent never-say-die mini-sermons, and a protean sound-effects man onstage. Here Level 6 re-creates with affectionate accuracy in order to ridicule. But the glaring anachronisms (a Caruso-wannabe croons "MacArthur Park," the president has FDR's voice and Nixon's dog), the gratuitous booze-drugs-sex banter among the station personnel, and the plugging of a made-up sponsor's products grow quickly sophomoric, undercutting what could have been a chilling irony in the show's denouement.

The Armageddon Radio Hour is competently executed and its actors show much promise, but its very existence remains a mystery. Level 6 may have a fine future, but for now one can think of many more worthy ways to pass the final hours before Armageddon.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brian Dann.

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