While Garrison Keillor is an icon in the world of radio, local theater critics have found his skills as a playwright lacking. His show “Radio Man,” now on stage at the History Theatre, left critics wanting to know more about the man, and less about the show.
I kept wanting to make connections between the Host’s past and what was going on in the PHC scenes. But Radio Man wouldn’t let me… Also, Radio Man is long, very nearly 3 hours. Do we really need so much Lives Of The Cowboys? And three (at least) quartets? There’s fabulous material lurking here, but I feel that playwright Keillor needs to work further on the script: be more generous with the autobiographical material. Give the Host a clearer arc.
Pearce Bunting, an intuitive actor, has located the cadence of his subject’s voice, the dour and blank face. His slightly unnatural gestures, though, caused me to wonder if he isn’t completely sure what is going on inside the character, largely because the playwright doesn’t want to tell him. We don’t learn much about the guy named Keillor. We see more of a “Radio Man” who prefers to live behind his creation of fiction.
“Radio Man” — which is being marketed as a behind-the-microphone peek at “Prairie Home Companion” and the man who created it — is really neither of those things. Keillor dribbles out personal information with an eye-dropper. There’s little discussion about the creation or evolution of the show and even less insight into its enigmatic creator, except for the somewhat discomforting conclusion that there’s but a hair’s breadth of difference between Garrison Keillor the radio-show character and Garrison Keillor the human being.
“Radio Man” runs through Oct. 26 at the History Theatre. Have you seen it? What did you think?