Because relatively few of us under 50 grew up listening to radio serials, let alone live radio theater, there's plenty of people who don't quite grasp Bricolage's concept with this series. The concept, however, is moot once you see the actual show: All you need to know is that it's funny, talented people doing funny, inventive stuff on stage for a little over an hour.
The concept, of course, harks to radio's mid-century golden age. Actors holding scripts get behind mikes and act out skits and stories and commercials, while frantic performers make the sounds of automobiles, fist fights and thunderstorms with little motors, leather belts and big pieces of metal. Mix in some live music for a classic variety-show format.
Midnight Radio is updated here and there for postmodern comic sensibilities. But imagine a less-earnest version of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion (the best-known revenant of this kind of work), or even old Bob & Ray routines, you've got the idea.
The ensemble includes top local stage regulars like Tony Bingham, Lisa Ann Goldsmith and Bricolage's own Tami Dixon (who doubles as main sound-effects artist), along with comedian Gab Bonesso and comic and pundit John McIntire.
So in this week's season-opener of this monthly series, there's an hilarious soap-opera parody; a fake PSA celebrating the spoon; a beer-commercial spoof in mock praise of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; two songs by the alt-country group Small Cities, playing as an acoustic trio; an audience-play secret-decoder-ring game; and a genuinely creepy adaption of a vintage radio script based on the Ray Bradbury science-fiction story "The Zero Hour."
Throw in "Hey Hon Let's Cook," a vision of how a radio cooking show originating in blue-collar Pittsburgh might go (starring the hilarious Angela M. Vesco), and this is entertainment fast-paced enough for most, and funny enough for anyone.
If you're a theater fan who's seen some of these actors in heavier dramatic roles, it's especially good fun to watch them cut loose with broad comedy. (Bricolage suggests that to get the full radio effect, you should listen with your eyes closed, but I'd argue you'd miss have the fun that way; the performances in the intimate theater space are visually wonderful, too.)
I especially enjoyed Goldsmith, whose range this month includes a haughty soap-opera diva, a '50s suburban -- and Superman if he were Chinese, as depicted in the evening's other big set-piece, playwright Ken Kassiar's truly Bob & Ray-style newscast spoof "Our Top Story tonight."
The June installment of Midnight Radio concludes with a 9 p.m. show tonight at Bricolage's space at 937 Penn Ave., Downtown. The series returns with all-new episodes in July (www.webbricolage.org).