Star Wars. Monster trucks. Deepthroat (both the porno and the scandal). Apple Rug Production's On Air Off follows three radio announcers and a technician as their 1953 broadcast is interrupted by a barrage of sound waves from the future. In between the static, they learn about Vietnam, women's lib, and winning lottery numbers in 1976. The question is, what will they do with this information? Exploit it for personal gain? Or use it to help make the world a better place?
The stage is well-set. Shows like Kenneth Barry P.I., (featuring such characters as Ricky Rat Face and Johnny the Block) and commercials for "smooth-tasting Mayfield cigarettes," give the audience a sense of time and place. Visual juxtapositions - such as busting heads of cabbage to simulate fight sounds - work well and heighten the humor.
And the cast delivers. Emily Spalding is brilliant as the icy-smooth Evelyn, and shows her range with other characters such as a Chinese waitress and a French femme fatale. Adam Lerman (who both plays the sound technician and does a terrific job with the actual sound design of the production) is the perfect straight man, delivering his deadpan lines with aplomb. And the entire cast does great voice work: we get hard-boiled detectives, craggy Cagney-types, oily advertisers, and no-nonsense newscasters.
The only problem is that once the pieces are all in place the play doesn't go anywhere. Following the barrage of radio broadcasts from the future, there is a brief and wholly unsatisfying exploration of what to do with all they've learned, and then the players flee the stage like bats out of hell.
The table is set, the ambience outstanding, but, ultimately, you walk away from this production hungering for more.