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Recreating their own special brand of theatrical magic for N.C. State University Center Stage on Oct. 28th, just two days prior to the 70th anniversary of the Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, L.A. Theatre Works presented a delightful two-act program of radio-theater versions of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. For the former, they used Howard Koch’s script from Welles’ notorious Mercury Theatre on the Air October 30, 1938 Halloween program, which terrified thousands of Columbia Broadcasting System listeners who thought the Martians had actually landed in New Jersey. The script for The Lost World was penned by twin bill director John de Lancie and Nat Segaloff. (De Lancie is probably most famous for playing Q on “Star Trek Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” and “Voyager.”)
Both science-fiction stories are highly entertaining. Director John de Lancie generates edge-of-your-seat suspense, but generously leavens the suspenseful shows with humorous moments; and L.A. Theatre Works’ seven-member cast plays dozens of characters, slickly segueing from role to role to role while imbuing each character with a distinct personality.
In War of the Worlds, Josh Clark performed the Orson Welles part of eminent astronomer Professor Richard Pierson with plenty of panache, narrating the catastrophic events that followed the shocking Martian invasion with impressive depth of feeling. Kenneth Alan Williams was also excellent as intrepid on-the-spot radio reporter Carl Phillips, whose ill-fated trip to the frontlines at Grover’s Mill (now West Windsor Township, Princeton, NJ) put him in scorching distance of the invaders “Heat-Ray.”
Kyle Colerider-Krugh was also good as a studio announcer with a golden voice; Jerry Hardin gave a chilling performance as a creepy survivor of the initial Martian attack whom Professor Richard Pierson meets on the battlefield; and Diane Adair, Jen Dede, and Peter McDonald added crisp cameos as assorted overstressed broadcasters, military men, and government officials, reacting rapidly if not always wisely to the Martian invasion of New Jersey and nearby New York City.
After the unspeakable horrors of War of the Worlds, The Lost World was a welcome respite — a delightful roller-coaster ride through the remotest regions of the Amazon, where dinosaurs still roam and a tribe of ape-like men threatens the undermanned British expedition led by world-renowned zoologist Professor George Edward Challenger (Josh Clark). Clark was dashing as a globetrotting professor, whose discovery of dinosaurs in South America is widely pooh-poohed by his colleagues; Jen Dede was a treat as Challenger’s fellow scientist and most incorrigible critic Professor Summerlee; Kenneth Alan Williams was delightful as ambitious London Gazette reporter Edward Malone, and Jerry Hardin was amusing as Malone’s flinty news editor. Diane Adair played Gladys White, the woman whom Edward loves, with pizzazz; Peter McDonald cut a dashing figure as sportsman and explorer Lord John Roxton; and Kyle Colerider-Krugh put his own special twist on the part of the expedition’s treacherous Amazon Indian guide Gomez and other assorted colorful cameo roles.
John De Lancie’s dynamic direction kept War of the Worlds and The Lost World fresh, fast-paced, scary, and funny. Scenic designer Brad Kaye’s minimalist set, lighting designer Trevor Norton’s artful illumination of the action, wardrobe supervisor Ela Erwin’s vivid outfits, and sound designer Lindsay Jones electronic wizardry also added snap, crackle, and pop to the program. L.A. Theatre Works’ radio-drama trick proved quite a treat for Tuesday night’s N.C. State University Center Stage audience.