Two classic Suspense radio plays—Sorry, Wrong Number and Backseat Driver—will be featured in Radio Redux’s Nov. 8-10 production at the Hult Center in Eugene.
Suspense is a radio drama series broadcast on CBS Radio from 1940 through 1962. One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, it was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 still exist.
Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.
In its earliest years, the program was hosted by "The Man in Black" (played by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne) with many episodes written or adapted by the prominent mystery author John Dickson Carr.
One of the series' earliest successes and its single most popular episode is Lucille Fletcher’s Sorry, Wrong Number, about a bedridden woman (played by Agnes Moorehead) who panics after overhearing a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection but is unable to persuade anyone to investigate. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was restaged seven times (last on February 14, 1960)—each time with Moorehead. The popularity of the episode led to a film adaptation in 1948.
Backseat Driver was written for Suspense by Sally Thorson. Radio Hall-of-Famers Jim Jordan (a.k.a Fibber McGee) and Marion Jordan (a.k.a Molly) starred. This episode first aired on February 3, 1949. Backseat Driver borrows from the urban legend, “The Killer in the Backseat,” in which a killer commandeers the car of a couple who are leaving the movies.
The final broadcast of Suspense—Devilstone, starring Christopher Carey and Neal Fitzgerald—on September 30, 1962, is often cited as the end of the Golden Age of Radio..
Suspense was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2011.
The cast for Radio Redux’s production of both scripts is Achilles Massahos, Dan Pegoda, Daniel Squire, Diana Aday, Fred Crafts, Jennifer Sellers, Joseph Gilg, Judi Weinkauf, Ken Hof, and Rebecca Nachison, with electronic effects by Al Villanueva and foley effects by Debi Noel, Judy Sinnott and Jennifer Sellers, who also sing as The Jewel Tones. Pre-show and intermission music will be by the Radio Redux Rhythmaires featuring Kirstin Parmeter-Nusser.
In addition to an entertaining production suitable for all ages, patrons can experience:
A free, illustrated behind-the-show talk by radio-film historian Patrick Lucanio 60 minutes before show time in the Hult Center’s Soreng Theatre—at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
A lobby exhibition of radio collectibles by curator Dennis Wright of the Radio Days Theater of the Mind Museum in Sutherlin.
An informal meet-the-cast encounter in the Hult Center lobby after the show.
The shows are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 and 2 p.m. Nov. 9 and 10.