The Shadow | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Shadow 

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The Shadow, Lifeline Theatre. With each new staging of scripts from this classic radio drama--this is the third production I've seen--adapter-director John Hildreth adds more elaborate sound effects, bigger laughs, and deeper character development. Starting here with "The Walking Corpse" and "Prelude to Terror," he and his cast reenact a 1940s live radio broadcast. The stories hold up well, but the crux of the experience is watching a team of seven create more than 20 characters and all the story's ambient sounds using only their own bodies and some rudimentary tools. Sloshing sand around a bass drum, for example, produces the effect of crashing waves.

Veterans of previous "broadcasts"--Mary Jo Bolduc, Ed Pierce, Ben Powell, and Roger Radtke--again contribute their considerable physical and vocal skills. New additions Reid Ostrowski as the Shadow and the exceptionally versatile Marssie Mencotti as his leading lady provide the requisite pomp, elocution, and old-world glamour.

The production is true to the period thanks to Sara Morgan's props and Michelle Tesdall's costumes. This rendition, partly derived from cast improvisation, includes more of a wartime backstory: nerve-racking special bulletins interrupt the broadcast, and the fate of a cast member's younger brother is in question. All told, this is a rich, thoroughly entertaining flashback to an era filled with drama and to an impressive, sadly lost art form.

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