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Tune in for laughs

August 14, 2015

LonelyAtTheTop@ZJU_PostcardBestAndy Shultz (writer/director) has put radio waves to paper, script that is. Lonely at the Top is the perfect distillation of the radio dramas I grew up with. Andy throws in several tongue in cheek, we can’t take ourselves too seriously now moments.

Above all you can tell Andy and Wyn Harris (director) did their homework. Lonely at the Top feels like an honest to goodness radio drama, or at least a send up of the most iconic attributes of the genre. The only thing missing is the periodic static and signal tuning interference. From the start you’re thrown into the setting, WZJU Host (Doug Haverty) pulls the old fashioned microphone plunging us into a scene straight out of the hardboiled detective serials of old. Channeling that old timey announcer cadence and squawk Doug paints a picture of a true serial. What isn’t painted by narration and dialogue is covered by a faux foley artist, our WZJU Host, on stage. Being live Theatre the faux foley artist shoots more for a visual element, than auditory.

LonelyAtTheTop@ZJU_PHOTO_1Lonely at the Top is a classic detective Serial following Rex Fontana (Adam Neubauer), his secretary Babs Berkowitz (Aling Zhang) and a cast of colorful noir characters. Rex and the assorted players are thrown deep into the dark depths of shady Los Angeles California, where everyone has a story to tell, and every dame with a killer set of gams is just as likely to kill you as the next vice.

Lonely is a classic noir detective serial. An important and thoroughly hated person has been found murdered, and there are more suspects with motive than you can shake an officer’s truncheon at. Speculation and fist cuffs fly as Rex and Police Chief Jordan (Shawn Davis) square off to see who will solve this mystery first. Who will solve the Goldstein murder first, and was it a Mob hit, the Communists, or Aliens from the center of the hollow earth!? How will our bumbling private dick accustomed to succeeding on stubbornness and luck pull this off? With the help of his lovely assistant more than anything else.

Everything about Lonely at the Top makes you feel like you’re listening to a radio drama, from the minimal movement and blocking, to the station breaks and commercials. Yes there are commercials, and they are real too. Period commercials from a bygone era of no regulations are read by announcers between each scene. It’s truly groan worthy hearing these old commercials.

For something like this to come together as well as it does here, everything must be tops. The story has to pull you forward, the pacing set by the director to hook the audience at the right moment, to the acting itself. Everything must flow together. Radio dramas are all about timing, making the audience laugh at the right moments, groan at the next. If the pace is off just a little this won’t work. Everything falls in place with Lonely.

Being that Lonely at the Top is a detective story, and I can’t give away the game, you’ll have to rely on your keen nose and intuition to suss out who the killer/s is. If you have your wits about you, and can see through the 4th wall, you’ll enjoy seeing Rex stumble through the investigation.

There is one difficult thing to deal with while watching Lonely. Which character do you want to have done the deed? Each character is a favorite for their own reasons. Every suspect has a motive, the fun in any detective story is finding those motives out, asking yourself if they are guilty or not. Part of what makes it hard to settle on one suspect; each is portrayed so wrongly, that it’s so right. Was it the rival Director Victor De Lancie (Vincent Miller) and his many secrets, including a frilly pink one? De Lancie certainly is creepy enough, a credit to Miller, to be a killer. There is the oft over worked assistant Mary Spielberg (Casey Ellings), a hard working dame who just wants to Direct movies, and raise her son. Mary and Babs have instant stage chemistry, are they teasing each other or the audience with their double talk. The mob boss is alwayse a good choice for the killer. Don Anthony Rizzotti (David Wyn Harris) is the perfect choice, Hollywood plus a mobster. It’s obvious, or is it too obvious? What does Don Rizzotti know about Goldstein’s death, and what does he know about Roswell while we’re at it? Could it be Mrs. Goldstein (Marilou Rabahi Seaton) herself, that naive wife of a philandering Hollywood Director, or perhapse she teamed up with the sultry Trixie Adams (Margaret Glaccum), Mr. Goldstein’s mistress, or was that stalker.LonelyAtTheTop@ZJU_PHOTO_2

Oh well, I’m sure Rex will figure out what happened to the Aliens at… I mean who killed Mr. Goldstein.

Pressing myself to pick a few choice adjectives to describe Lonely at the Top; gloriously groan worthy, stitch inducing puns. Lonely at the Top is a grand evening spent with your face in your palm. It’s more than just the corny lines, purposely transparent characters, or even the timing of every line. The entirety of Lonely gels together, forming a complete portrayal of classic Americana.

So grab your Tin Foil, for the radio antenna, your trench coat, and a fedora and tune into WZJU. That’s Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, same macabre theatre, same unusual programming. With any luck, Rex Fontana will haunt the faux radio waves with some sense serial repetition.

Lonely at the Top (Written by Andy Shultz, Directed by Shultz, and David Wyn Harris) airs, I mean runs Friday nights at 8:30pm through August 28th.

For more information please visit: http://www.zombiejoes.com

All Photo Credit:  Andy Shultz

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