Return of the Radio Play: The TFT Review of Paul Rome’s ‘The You Trilogy’
Paul Rome’s “The You Trilogy” is a trio of what can only be called radio dramas; recorded closed studio performances in the vein of the 40’s programs that piped in through the transistors in living rooms across America, but with a modern (or perhaps post-modern) twist. Without a hint of irony, Rome employs the old medium in order to exploit and magnify the insular nature of the contemporary late twenties/early thirties adult, with all the attendant anxieties, addictions, prescriptions and paranoia that go with trying to forge a life in these economically, politically, and culturally uncertain times.
The dramas are written as monologues, with Rome narrating the inner thoughts of his protagonist, as well as re-enacting the voices of the other characters. Rome also creates all the ambient noise, and music, with little more than a simple Casio keyboard. The production quality of the pieces is professional and tidy, but it is the writing that dazzles; Rome’s calculated and sometimes dramatically erudite formulations, in Rome’s unassuming and quiet, yet commanding monotone, are delightful and as the author writes on his site, “They are also excellent to fall asleep to.”
In “The Game” a group of friends head to a cabin in the woods to relax, eat good food, drink good wine, and play board games. Rome’s narrator is hung up on a past relationship and drinks too much, but the possibility of rekindling an old flame draws him to the cabin for the weekend. A light rain falls constantly in the recording, with slow twanging piano to accompany, and juxtapose, the soothing tones of the water. Rome’s narrator turns the simple game of Monopoly into a metaphor for his life, never in first place, always succumbing to the ambition of others, and never really being happy with just having enough to make ends meet. The resultant effect of extreme claustrophobia that occurs – because of the position of the listener one is stuck in the confines of the narrator’s head – creates a creepy, almost horrific atmosphere of a life of moderate success and failure that is, for all intents and purposes, essentially just a little boring box with no escape.
Rome’s narrator psyches himself out over the sort of blind date that he is on at the cabin and eventually takes all the drugs he can carry from his bag into the upstairs bedroom, climbs out the window and disappears into the night. It is a shocking conclusion, an act that one would not expect from such a mundane character. But this seems to be the commentary that Rome intends, that the ordinary, with one slight change can become extraordinary, or at least not so damn boring.
The other two installments of the trilogy are similarly situated, with the listener being positioned within the head of the narrator creating the sense that there is nowhere to go in one’s life, and all we can do is talk about our problems, or think about them, and suffer through them. We will continue to endlessly analyze ourselves, until we go mad, and then do it some more. Rome takes his rote cynicism seriously, however, and does not approach his subject lightly. He has crafted three tales that end in ways that the listener does not expect and are in some ways surprising, a type of ending that may get at the heart of what Rome is aiming at in these narratives; that despite how mundane and seemingly inescapable our own thoughts can be, we are still the masters of our destiny, and all we have to do is grab the pot and the coke, and climb out the window, disappearing in the Vermont woods in a light rain, to change our circumstances and escape the post-modern trap of depression and the monotony of middle class life.
Listen for free at http://theyoutrilogy.com/
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