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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Longacre Theater, New York

By Jessica Branch

  Liev Schreiber/Photo: Joan Marcus

Liev Schreiber has a great voice for radio. Sonorous, with a raspy edge of worldweariness and seductive snarkiness, it sounds like Alan Alda's Hawkeye gone gonzo radio. Schreiber's voice, one must assume, has to be the raison d'etre for the revival of Eric Bogosian's 1987 play, which has aged no better than subUrbia, also featured earlier this season. Spotlighting a night in the life of Barry Champlain, a Cleveland-based shock-radio provocateur, the play provides a snapshot of his struggles with mingled ennui and disgust about his audience. Admittedly, they're an odd lot of misfits and mediocrities, most of whom adore (and misunderstand) his sniping - of which they're generally the targets. Now that we've all lived through the rise and fall of Howard Stern, decades of Jerry Springer and (gulp) reality TV, Bogosian's revelations about the profound depths of American complacency seem like cynical truisms rather than truths, and his assumption that his prophet in the wilderness is, in fact, superior to his audience feels more questionable than ever.

Scruffy and coked up, Schreiber's Barry can be mesmerizing at times, but Schreiber doesn't have material strong enough to sustain what's essentially a monologue, with the callers generally providing springboards rather than conversation - and with interlude setpieces from Barry's coworkers as each chimes in with a different perspective on him. The real pity of it is that Schreiber (and, one suspects, Barry) is at his best when he actually gets to engage in dialogue with another character, as he does occasionally with some of his callers, and most notably in a jarring encounter with a loose-cannon fan. But in the end, it's Schreiber's voice in the darkness we remember: If only he's had something more to say with it.



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