On a recent Sunday evening, my best gal and I dappered up, donned our best drapings, and went down to the local watering hole to watch the radio.
That’s right: we went to watch the radio.
As part of a monthly series in the Snug Room, Murphy’s Irish Pub hosts a Dinner Theater featuring Sharry Simpson’s cast of Old Time Radio Live performers, who reenact old radio scripts while patrons sip on wine or beer and enjoy a two-course meal.
These scripts may be from an era long past, but they are far from stale. Pulling from comedy geniuses of the time, such as Abbot and Costello and Jack Benny, Simpson’s troupe has the listener interacting with the show and sharing in the laughter. And there is plenty of laughter.
For someone, such as this writer, who was raised in an era of internet one-offs and slap-stick comedy, it may be difficult to understand how simply listening to people talk can inspire such laughter. After all, how can it be funny if no one gets hurt? However, within minutes, listeners are introduced to the poignant, intelligent humor that made radio comedy so popular in the first place. At one point, during a reading of Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine, I may have let out one or two (or six) laugh-induced snorts.
Not that I’ll admit it.
That’s not to say that laughs are all there is to these players. Between Sherrill Peterson blasting out well-timed sound effects and ambient music from her throne behind the keyboard to Jeremy Berrick’s spot-on 50s radio voice (the only explanation is that he must have found it in a time capsule buried somewhere deep in Depot Park) it is easy to become immersed in the action. I found myself with my eyes shut on several occasions, as their reading of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man” transformed a radio drama read by four actors and a keyboardist into one of Hollywood’s best-cast and best-directed films, all in my mind’s eye.
And that speaks volumes about these actors’ abilities. Director Sharry Simpson puts it succinctly: “They are all local, talented actors that know their craft. That’s what I like about radio — it really requires the actors to be on.”
In addition to those already mentioned, the lineup on Sunday was rounded out by Julia Holsworth, Jeff Dreyer and local folk hero, Kate Kennedy, as an addition to the regular cast.
“We have our core group of actors, but we also try to keep the scripts fresh by having guests come on, like we did with Kate tonight,” said Simpson.
At $35 a ticket, this show would be a bargain on its own. But, wait, there’s more. In addition to the performance, Murphy’s also provides a stellar two-course dinner that consists of a salad and your choice of several different entrees. Dinner starts at 5:30, the show starts at 7 and everybody is out of there by 8 p.m. The timing is well suited for a date or night-on-the-town and keeps well with the Dinner Theater motto: “Old-Time Radio, It’s a Honey, Very Fast, and Very Funny!”
The next show, scheduled for November 11 and 12, features comedy and music from Jack Benny. For more information contact Sharry at 815.6159 or Hunt at Hunt@sonomapub.com.
– Steve Brunolli | Sonoma Valley Sun