Radiotheatre Presents THE MOLE PEOPLE
nytheatre.com review by Zachary Fithian
August 11, 2008
Radiotheatre is, as its name suggests, a merging of two traditional artistic forms. Combining elements of old time radio shows with elements of theatre, a new form of performance is achieved. Although—the amalgamation of radio and theatre notwithstanding—The Mole People is reminiscent of yet another kind of storytelling, the kind that usually takes place around a campfire. A one-man show, The Mole People is storytelling in its most literal sense. Jerry Lazar, as the narrator, is out to entertain, certainly, but also to achieve that old campfire goal—to frighten.
The premise is simple: the lights go down, the smoke comes up, and out walks a grizzled looking man in a hat and coat (black, naturally). The image is tempered, however, by the man's ordinary and somehow friendly-looking sneakers. This is a man, it would seem, who is on our side, whose spooky tales are meant more as cautionary than anything else.
Part historical account and part fairy tale, The Mole People tells the story of, well, things living in the subway system. Stories of forgotten flushed pets growing to gargantuan proportions in the sewer system are not unheard of, but the presence of monsters in the subway strikes a little more close to home. I, for one, spend plenty of time underground waiting for the train, but rarely do I find myself spelunking through the city's leftovers. So the thought that those interminable waits at three in the morning could be spent with more than just rats? That's a little scary.
It is rather tough to frighten modern cynical audiences. That which might be designed to frighten often elicits giggles rather than screams. Getting an entire audience to suspend disbelief is almost impossible and, though Lazar does an admirable job, there were still some disbelieving snickers. I found myself focusing on the show as an experiment in form rather than being too concerned with its actual content.
And it's an interesting experiment. Dan Bianchi's compositions certainly provide a heightened sense of story; just about everything Lazar speaks is underscored by something, whether music or the munching of some underground denizen. The lighting is simple, although I particularly liked the classical, campfire-style use of a flashlight to contribute an element of spooky. Add in a fog machine and the mood was certainly set.
If you go into The Mole People with an open mind, willing to hear a story, then you will most likely be pleasantly surprised. You may be spooked, you may laugh, and you may even learn something. And, at just under an hour, you certainly won't be bored.