The 9 p.m. "curtain" is a bit deceptive when Bricolage Production Co. cranks up a Midnight Radio production. Yes, an original radio play -- in this case, Bootleggin' and Bathtub Gin -- starts at 9, but the full theatrical experience begins as soon as audience members arrive. The lobby, tricked out not only to resemble a 1920s speakeasy but also to offer its rudimentary amenities, is a participatory first act. However much you want to get into it, go for it.
The actual performance space is theater stripped bare, showing all the tricks that actors, designers and artists use to conjure up the play in the audience's imagination. Actors use distinct voices to portray several roles, sometimes in the same scene. Watching the variety of sound effects as they're created adds to the aural fun.
The featured story, Murder Inc., by local playwright Matthew Adams and Bricolage artistic director Jeffrey Carpenter, is more than a little rough around the edges. Allegedly based on a series of local Prohibition-era mob murders and other misbehaviors, Murder Inc. is well over the line of what real radio would permit, both in language and situations. Not that it doesn't provide the chuckles. Imagine The Godfather muscling in on A Prairie Home Companion. Alas, the faux "news" and "commercials" tend to overreach into the realm of tastelessness and unfunniness. These guys are capable of much better.
Carpenter also directs the excellent ensemble: voice artists Jack Erdie, Lisa Ann Goldsmith, Jeffrey Howell, Adam Kroloff and Bricolage producing artistic director Tami Dixon, also credited with Foley sound effects. Plus Brendan Kepple, sound engineering; Sam McUmber, music direction; Andrew J. Paul, productions; Caitlin Roper, stage manager; and period-underlining music by the Ortner-Roberts Trio.
OK, so it's uneven, slippery and superficial, but lots of fun. Arrive early, preferably in period costume, to enjoy the full experience of Midnight Radio, Episode 4: Bootleggin' and Bathtub Gin. Hot-cha.
Midnight Radio, Episode 4: BOOTLEGGIN' AND BATHTUB GIN continues through Sat., Sept. 24. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. www.webbricolage.org