REVIEW – The War of the Worlds – Stanford Repertory Theater

In a world of Onion articles taken seriously, celebrity death hoaxes and what seems like a constant reminder to people to fact check on Snopes.com before posting or pressing send, there’s certainly an element of relevance to Stanford Repertory Theater’s War of the Worlds. We’re all well aware that the speed of false information on the internet somehow travels infinitely more quickly than the truth by any method, and yet even with that amusing connection to our current technology-driven world, I’m not sure this play can really come close to the impact the original had in its day.

This short 55 minute production with lovely musical interludes and quite a bit of melodramatic (and often humorous) repetition, has a pleasant vintage quality about it both visually and aurally. Certainly the actors voices are suitably interesting and varied. Their vocal agility and enthusiasm paired a playful, relaxed chemistry with each other is as much as you could hope for, but the fact remains, you are WATCHING a RADIO show. This is an inescapable facet of the play and thus some of the blocking comes off as unnecessary to the world of the play and more for the benefit of the audience used to watching a tad more action. The watching of a radio show is not my favorite device, admittedly. The charm of how sound effects are created is fun at first, but ware off before the end of the performance. Additionally, with that retro look and sound comes a bit of a cheese factor that makes it more than a little difficult to feel sincerely suspenseful or to fully buy-in to the premise entirely.  Without that buy-in, it did make me wonder…what’s the point? Not, something I ever like to ask, especially during the show.

There’s nice attention to detail with the set, costumes and props that I certainly appreciate here, and really, there’s nothing at all wrong with the production value of this show in my opinion. I’m just not entirely sure that’s enough at the end of the hour. Even with the talent and commitment of this cast, I found the script to be too dry and outdated in a way that didn’t serve the production and ultimately the purpose.

A few good laughs and some wonderful choices/moments, but overall, not as compelling as a stage option as I was hoping for. 3 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a novel piece that challenges its cast and crew with exercises in character and stage business, but didn’t hit the mark with regard to any greater entertainment. War of the Worlds plays through August 24th at the Nitery Theater on the Stanford Campus.

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