Reggie Watts

Reggie Watts

A parody of a 1940s radio play would be as relevant to audiences today as, well, a 1940s radio play itself. But while it is inspired by a medium that is virtually extinct, Reggie Watts and playwright Tommy Smith’s Radio Play, currently running at PS 122 in New York City, is more accurately a lively, non-linear deconstruction of everything that radio listeners might be exposed to as they search the AM/FM airwaves. With scripted and musical transitions – at the same time more immersive and yet more subtle than the static between stations – that transport the audience between vignettes, an absurd take on a noir radio drama can become a silly domestic comedy scene, a riff on radio commercial jingles morphs into an abstract soundscape, and spooky sound effects and technical tricks contribute to an hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness theatrical experience that is greater than the sum of its vintage parts.

Performing Radio Play mostly in complete darkness, Watts is the ringmaster, accompanied on stage by four other performers (actors Havilah Brewster, Beth Hoyt, and Mary Jane Gibson, with Jen Rondeau playing the theremin) who are surrounded by antiquated equipment such as old cassette players and television sets, mid-century appliances, and a lonely film projector spinning its empty reel. Improvised moments sneak into the structured piece, throughout which the audience is immersed in Watts’ unique vision that is meant to be heard and felt more than seen, with blackness punctuated only occasionally by well-placed and impeccably timed lighting cues.

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