As an alternative to television this year, try the National Public Radio drama series Earplay.
The third production of the show's eighth season, which airs the week of Jan. 20 (see local listings), is In Camera, a play by Robert Pinger about a spry 77-year-old woman in a senior citizens' home who is determined to shoot a movie of her life. Willpower alone is not quite enough, however, as the would-be filmmaker slips in and out of reality. The story becomes more affecting as she doggedly tries to persuade an 84-year-old gent in the home to co-star in her movie. Interestingly, Lurene Tuttle, the heart-tugging lead, and Leon Ames, who plays her cantankerous, wheelchair-bound man, have worked together before: He was the crusty star, she the put-upon wife in the 1950s TV sitcom based on Clarence Day's Life with Father.
The following week, Earplay casts Brock Peters and Coral Browne in Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act, a documentary-flavored work by South African playwright Athol Fugard. Though a bold attempt to deal with South Africa's brutal apartheid system, the work begins tediously as a pair of lovers, a black man and a white woman, discuss the problems that shadow their world. The pace picks up when the two are arrested and put on trial because their love violates South Africa's Immorality Act. The testimony of their transgressions underlines the cruelty and absurdity of legislated discrimination. But it is the vocal intensity of Peters and Browne that brings the star-crossed lovers to life. They come across so vibrantly as to make one marvel at the power of imageless sound to liberate the imagination.