New Jersey is the center of the universe. Which explains why Martians chose to invade the Garden State in October 1938.
For one hypnotic hour, three actors and a sound effects man re-created Orson Welles’ infamous, panic-inducing radio broadcast of the H.G. Wells classic, The War of the Worlds.
Raconteur Radio, an offshoot of a now-departed bookstore in Metuchen, has performed dozens of classic and original radio plays, including Gaslight, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Moby Dick.
Friday’s production featured founding member Laurence Mintz in various roles, with Thom Boyer as Carl Phillips, the intrepid news reporter who gets flame-broiled by the Martians’ heat ray, and Michael Jarmus as Princeton’s Professor Pierson, who reminds us all to thank our lucky germs.
Alexander Dawson, former owner of the Raconteur bookshop, kept the sound effects rolling. Between gigs, he teaches creative writing at Rutgers, and serves as the main script doctor for the radio venture.
He pruned about a half hour from the original War of the Worlds broadcast, which was wise. Another 30 minutes and the squirmy toddler in the back row might have been dodging heat rays from the audience.
When Raconteur Radio is not touring libraries and schools, you can find the seven-member troupe performing occasionally on New York’s Gramercy Park at The Players Club.
Founded by Edwin Booth and Mark Twain, the private club has included Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Kevin Spacey among its illustrious members.