Two Radio Plays by Ray Bradbury
Downwind from Gettysburg
The Toynbee Convector
Ray Bradbury is very easy with drama. The circumscribed conventions of the stage suit him to a tee. Stage a radio drama of his, put him in his element, a schoolboy in a Midwestern station. Have some actors who know the business.
The set is a modest one, revealing on closer inspection its exactitude. An inflected back wall, bookcase with scripts, door, clock, booth, microphones on stands, chair and table for the narrator stage right, side table left with pitcher and glasses. The director in his booth gives the signal, the ON AIR sign is lit and a red light bulb over the door. The narrator (Malachi Throne) begins.
There are two such men. One lived in Argentina and wrote in the manner and style of his country. The other lives in Los Angeles. Buenos Aires letters are of the city, we know the place through them, and thence the existence of its inhabitants. L.A. is a very museum style, rich and full in concentrated essences.
John Bayes (Jay Gerber) has built an audioanimatronic Abraham Lincoln, and William Henry Booth (Andrew Parker) has shot it, the way he would crush a turtle in childhood. Bayes wouldn’t harm a butterfly. Let there be no fame accorded the assassin, let him not even speak of it, on pain of death.
After intermission, the time machine. A reporter, “heading south toward La Jolla” in his Dragonfly, prepares to interview the inventor. ”I lied,” says the latter (Ian Abercrombie). The malaise as he saw it of the Sixties, etc., provoked him to it. Here are the great ages for your inspection. Oblivion and eternity describe his fate.
Christopher Thomas as the reporter works his script with his hands, capturing the tone. Gerber and Throne understand radio acting, the disembodied voice. Abercrombie walks through the part effortlessly.
The sustained drama of Downwind from Gettysburg is played in counterpoint to its simple image. The Toynbee Convector rises out of the theatrical circumstance into the real strangeness of Bradbury’s universes.
Los Angeles is a nervous town when it comes to theater. Everywhere, no matter what the play, recorded sound effects are not aligned with stage speech, they are too loud, too soft or not in the right direction. Some of the actors tend to shout. The lighting is bright though inartistically refuses to participate in the set, which is superb.
As if this could matter when the thing is put before you so expertly.