“On the Air” Dishes Death

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(L-R): Shane Houston as Jimmy, Michael Tatlock as Walter Wicks, John Moschitta, Jr. as Manny Lowmax, Donna Pieroni as Deirdra Banks and Nicholas Harden as The Cop.

A funny, entertaining throwback to radio’s heyday, “On the Air” blends farcical comedy and satiric musical numbers as it reveals a murder mystery set on a 1930’s Hollywood radio show. Filled with wisecracks, double entendres and songs, the production contains fine acting and craftwork.
It’s a dark and stormy night on the set of “Dark ‘Til Morning,” where Walter Wicks (Michael Tatlock) and Deirdra Banks (Donna Pieroni) spar with each other and station manager Manny Lomax (John Moschitta, Jr.) while pestering innocent Jimmy (Shane Houston), the resident flunkie. Wicks ends up dead during a live broadcast. Will this end the show, and will the murderer strike again?
Writer/Director Houston crafts witty one-liners and promising storyline but the story is a little unwieldy, crude and long. Energy roller coasters between well-timed takes and patches of flat plot. The songs help develop and enliven the production, with “Radio Days” possessing an up-tempo, catchy melody and cute choreography.
A few anachronisms crop up, however: Macy’s, certain music and coarse, on-air language did not exist in 1939 Hollywood.
The cast gives strong performances. Old pros ham it up with high energy, scenery chewing turns. Moschitta’s blustery, bullying Lomax takes control, Pieroni brings high camp to the aging diva and Tatlock displays flamboyant style and fine vocal range as the alcoholic Wicks. Houston’s charming naïf, Jimmy, remains too subdued against these three.
Production work is first-rate, with elegant production design, mood lighting and atmospheric, ambient sound creation.

“On the Air” plays Saturday nights only at 8 pm through March 6 at the Whitefire Theatre (13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks). Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased by visiting www.ontheairplay.com or by calling (323) 960-4420.

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