A Call In The Night

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A Call In The Night [1]
WBAI And NPR Playhouse
Original Broadcast Date
Beth Dixon, Eric Sears, Paul Mantell, Rosemary Foley, Avery Hart, Arthur Miller, Joe Frank
61 minutes
Preceded by: An American Hero Workshop
Followed by: Till You're Gone

The nurses rolled him around the garden in his wheelchair.

A Call In The Night is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series NPR Options. It was originally broadcast in 1979


The first segment of this episode is a monologue, where Joe describes someone's memory from their childhood. A childhood fish story with heavy sound effects. Discordant voices overlapping.

The next segment alternates between scenes from a play and a panel discussion of the same play. The play is by the (fictional) playwright "Joseph Molka" and is about a man (Eric Sears) and a woman's (Beth Dixon) clumsy "date" in an unnamed city in the midst of a terrible plague outbreak. The man and woman meet in an art museum and have a playful exchange, and it is established the man is a visitor from out of town. The woman, whose name is "Jo" is a local resident and in a bit of exposition tells about the fatal plague which she treats largely as an inconvenience. A stranger accosts the couple and as he talks becomes progressively more agitated and irrational- this is the effect of the plague. The couple escapes the museum. Throughout the play sounds of coughing are heard.

The panel discusses the plague, feet symbolism and the supermodernist movement.

We return to the earlier monologue, which is apparently playwriter Molka's journal - this time, observations of his mother on vacation.

The play continues into the next scene, with the couple going to a Chinese restaurant. Their familiar unease at being anglo-saxons in a Chinese-American environment is amplified when the waiter turns out to be increasingly abuse and irrational. He too is a plague victim, and the couple escapes the restaurant.

The next segment is a different kind of monologue: a gallows erected on a bridge and guards charged with asking passers where they are going and killing them if they swear falsely.

Back to the play, the couple takes a cab to the woman's apartment. All seems to finally be going well with the romantic evening until the cab driver starts driving erratically, and he turns out to be another plague victim.

Finally the couple reaches Jo's apartment. The following discussion concerns itself with the sensory and religious themes in the play. Questions of determinism and freedom.

The final segment is a repeating monologue: A story is repeated several times, changing slightly with each telling. While Molka's having an operation for club feet his father dies[1] and his mother claims his father has gone to Boston. He travels to Boston, searches the city, picnics in a cemetery and becomes paralyzed.


Shared material

  • The text is nearly identical to A Call In The Night (Remix), except the sound effects are heavier in the original and the Joe's monologues are slightly modified and delivered with very different emphasis and set to different background sounds.

Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "[W]ritten and produced by Joe Frank. Directed by Arthur Miller, with technical direction by David Rapkin. The performers included Beth Dixon, Eric Sears, Arthur Miller, Bernie Mantell, Irene Wagner, and Joe Frank."


  • Joe Frank's father died on the day of one his operations for club feet.[1]


    1. 1.0 1.1 "Joe Frank Signs Off". Mark Oppenheimer, Slate, January 19, 2018.