War of the Worlds
Lily Machado, left, Virginia Indell star as the two children of a family convinced that aliens are attacking Earth. GABRIEL SANCHEZ/ Keys Weekly

Opening night for the Key Players’ adapation of the H.G. Wells science fiction classic, “War of the Worlds,” is set for Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Murray Nelson Government & Cultural Center. An eager and excited cast invited the Weekly to its first dress rehearsal for a sneak preview.

“War of the Worlds the Radio Show” is based on original scripts used by the cast of the Orson Welles-directed radio show. The now infamous broadcast first aired on Oct. 30, 1938, Halloween night, and was heard by more than 30 million people. Depicted as live news bulletins, the broadcast terrified listeners who believed Martian invaders had arrived in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey and had begun laying waste to humanity. The mass hysteria that followed helped make the radio adaption of “War of the Worlds” one of the most popular radio shows of all time.

Director/Producer Jonelle Kop added a creative touch to the show by writing a handful of skits to accompany the original script. The skits portray families unaware that the broadcast is fake.

“Even though the radio show was from the 1930s, I feel like the way people reacted could be relevant today,” said 10-year Key Players veteran Suzanne Nason. “Maybe not by the threat of Martians, but certainly from some other existential threat.”

Now in his second major production with the Key Players, Craig Zabransky said he appreciates the impact the broadcast had on society and his own childhood. Zabransky cycles among five characters during the show, most notably depicting on-the-scene reporter Carl Phillips and the military’s Captain Lansing.

“I truly enjoy the historical aspect of the show; I knew about this show from my childhood watching the early black and white movie,” said Zabransky. “From there I learned that an original radio show really scared the world. So it is really special to be reading these original scripts and playing the original characters created for the original October evening in 1938.”

Some of Zabransky’s most dramatic lines come at the end of Act One, as the battle against the invading alien race seems lost.

Following Opening Night, scheduled evening shows of “War of the Worlds the Radio Show” are on Feb. 9, 10, 15, and 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Murray Nelson Government & Cultural Center. The final show is on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door and online at www.thekeyplayers.org or $13 if purchased at Key Largo Chocolates, Shear Paradise, or the PostNet Store.

“… But that face, it … Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by … possibly gravity or something.” – ­Carl Phillips (reporter) portrayed by Craig Zabransky

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