by Margaret Croyden

Talk Radio starring Liev Schreiber


Photo of Margaret Croyden
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.

Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian - Staring Liev Schreiber
The Longacre Theatre
220 West 48th Street
Reviewed March 26, 2007 by Margaret Croyden

Everyone knows that Liev Schreiber, the lead in "Talk Radio," is a good actor. He has played a variety of roles form Shakespeare to Pinter, appeared in numerous movies, won Tonys and other acting awards, and is much in demand. Everyone in theater knows that Eric Bogosian's "Talk Radio" was produced by the Public Theater in 1987 when the great Joe Papp was running the place. Everyone knows that more than fifteen old plays have recently been revived on Broadway and not very well. And this is just another one.

Lets start with the story. "Talk Radio" is about an irascible, unsavory, nasty host of a talk-in radio show. (Liev Schreiber). Throughout the evening all kinds of loners, losers, and crackpots call in, and he answers these poor fools in the most outrageous and insulting manner, yet they take it. Callers include racists, anti-Semites, drunks, pill takers, druggies-the lunatic fringe. All this is supposedly amusing-if that's the playwright's idea of fun. Ostensibly he was trying to criticize our society, the communications industry, and their corporate masters. Yet, the broadcasters themselves are monsters, who ultimately play ball with their bosses-even against their will. In trying to condemn the society, the communications industry, and all that this implies, Bogosian has made the mistake of using a vile anti-hero who is as much responsible for the putrid society that he pretends to abhor. Moreover this radio guru is actually a loser himself. A drunk, a dope addict, a pill taker, and a vulgarian, he is pretty repulsive.

For 105 minutes (seems like three hours) we are forced to listen to these call-in conversations with their absurd questions and pitiful problems as they ask for advice and offer their opinions. To watch and listen to Liev Schreiber, however skilled he is on the phone with these misfits, is not only tiresome but nauseating. At the end, the radio talk show host breaks down and cries(?) as though he understands his miserable life-as if we can ever believe that.
Yes, Liev Schreiber is a good actor. But frankly,in this play he is a bore. Comical? Yes. Nasty? Yes. Evil? Yes. And more. But who cares? Not even Leiv Schreiber-who knows how to deliver a line, and knows how to rant non-stop-can sustain the overbearing ugliness of the persona he is obliged to portray. Finally at the end, when he supposedly sees what a bastard he is, Schreiber milks the denouement, using insufferable pauses, tears of contrition, and prolongs our agony even more. No, I do not call this a great performance. It's time to see Schreiber play a heroic, sweet guy. Type casting sure ruins an actor's talent. A lousy play doesn't help either.

Margaret Croyden's most recent book is "Conversations With Peter Brook, 1970-2000" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

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