nytheatre.com review by Kwesi Cameron
August 15, 2004
Sleepwalk is based on the true story of New York radio disk jockey Peter Tripp, who is mostly famous for a publicity stunt he concocted for charity to stay up 8 days. He is also famous for being charged with bribery in the payola scandals of the 1950’s. Writer-director Sean K. Smith has done an excellent job of weaving both stories into a tight 90 minutes at the small but comfortable Linhart Theater.
In 1959, Tripp set an on-air record at radio station WMGM, staying up 201 hours and 9 minutes broadcasting live from a glass booth in Times Square. The play uses the stunt as a backdrop for Tripp’s rise and fall in the industry. Tripp is at the height of his fame at the time of the stunt. As the story unfolds in non-sequential scenes, we watch Tripp’s spiral downward as his ego and lust for money, women, and fame eventually lead him to be arrested for accepting bribes to play records. He is not alone in the government probe but unlike some others, such as his unseen nemesis Dick Clark (yes, that Dick Clark), Tripp is hung out to dry by the industry and never recovers. He later becomes an exercise salesman and motivational speaker.
Brian Brophy plays the fast talking, wired Tripp, and he is totally riveting and believable in the role. The supporting cast—Martha Hackett (Margie Tripp), Charlie Davis (Tom), John Lathan (ensemble) , Tania Getty (ensemble) and Victor Talmadge (Carl)—are more than capable, especially Davis as the station engineer and Tripp’s expressive but silent sidekick and Lathan in a variety of roles. Costume designer Sarah Zinsser should be commended for the authentic-looking '50s costumes, especially the women’s outfits.