That's the premise behind "Talk Radio," a psychological case study of the callers to a controversial "shock jock" radio host. The popular play contains plenty of humorous moments as well, said Stuart Stelly, who is directing an adaptation by the Penn State York Penn Players this weekend at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center.
"I think it's a show with relevance to our obsession with media, to our reliance on mass media to give us something that's missing in our lives," Stelly said. "And I think it's an extremely entertaining show."
The Pulitzer Prize-
winning play, written by Eric Bogosian, is based on a concept by Bogosian and Tad Savinar. It centers on Barry Champlain, a Cleveland-area shock jock, on the eve of his radio show's national syndication. A film adaptation of "Talk Radio," directed by Oliver Stone, was released in 1988.
The adviser for the Penn Players and an English professor, Stelly previously directed a 2008 performance of "Talk Radio" at Penn State York.
"It's a really dark comedy and the characters can be very quirky," he said. "Barry can be quite inventive in how he deals with his characters."
The show plays out on one set: the radio station booth in which Champlain holds court. Played by student-actor Patrick McCay, Champlain is "extremely abusive" to the callers, Stelly said.
"Most of the callers are lonely, lost individuals," he added. "They're looking for something, so they turn to the media star to provide something they don't have in their own lives. And he looks to them to provide what is missing in his life."
The play is based in part on the late Alan Berg. An attorney and controversial talk show host in Denver. Berg was fatally shot in his driveway by members of the white nationalist group The Order.
The Penn Players are introducing one significant change from the traditional production of "Talk Radio": the callers will appear on stage to the left or right of the radio booth.
"We thought that it would be helpful to the show to emphasize the minor characters to give emphasis to their loneliness and pain," Stelly said.
The show is about 90 minutes and suitable for teens and older, he said. Stelly is assisted by a student director, Mary Lee, president of the Penn Players.
- JOHN HILTON,
If you go
WHAT: "Talk Radio"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., Spring Garden Township
COST: $5, free with Penn State York student ID
DETAILS: Visit www.yk.psu.edu and search "Talk Radio"