No, this has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. The only thing these two have in common is the title and the barebones premise of a guy standing on a ledge over 10 stories from the ground. For those who are critical of the movie, this might be the story you were looking for. For those who are fans of the movie, check it out anyway. Why not satisfy the curiosity of experiencing the plot in a different way. While Man on a Ledge the movie is a standard espionage thriller, Man on a Ledge the audio play is somewhere between an oddball black comedy and an existential black comedy, written and directed by Joe Maggio (Blood Feast).
The man on a ledge is John Alba (Vincent D’Onofrio, Full Metal Jacket). He is the type who has been beaten down all of his life. Even worse, he had just returned from a trip to Amsterdam to see his girlfriend only for her to (in his own words) “miller” him. So there he sits over 10 floors above the ground, with the police are watching him.
The first half of act 1 unfolds as a bizarre existential play. At first, it seems like he is going on a balcony, thanks to the masterful deception of the sound editing. Then Alba begins a monologue about how the miseries of his life and about how he “woke up one morning and decided he couldn’t take it anymore.” All delivered to a bird. Then the sound of distant sirens is heard, revealing he casually sits on a ledge. Of course, it’s not much of a shock considering the title.
And then Police negotiator William “Bill” Coley (Host Larry Fessenden) then comes in and tries to get him back in the house. Unfortunately, Alba feels comfortable where he is and doesn’t like to be told what to do. Thus the play goes from D’Onofrio’s one man show into a two men duel of philosophies. Writer and Director Maggio seem to have an interest in duels of personalities. In his previous film Blood Feast, he pitted a disgraced chef against a food critic. With D’Onofrio’s disillusioned cynicism and Fessenden’s glass-half full professionalism, this duel is a guilty joy.
This is thanks to D’Onofrio’s performance. As in previous performances (Full Metal Jacket, the Cell), he is all too real as a broken man, especially in his early monologue. He adds surrealism and humour in his casual attitude to sitting on a high ledge. He is especially hilarious in his exchange with the residents on the ground:
Alba: You Jump! And fuck yourself on the way down!
It that wasn’t enough, D’Onofrio also plays existential philosopher with seen-it-all cynicism that gives Fessenden a run for his money. Through all these sides, he still manages to be one character. His high point is a monologue about a TV movie he saw about Lee Harvey Oswald.
For the beginning of a horror anthology, this audio play is the least horror-like of all the stories. Sure, the idea of fall from a building is scary, but the play is more like an odd and existential black comedy. There is gore near the end, but it’s more CSI than Saw. Still, it’s an entertaining experience and an excellent introduction to Horror radio plays, especially Tales from Beyond the Pale. Man on a Ledge showcases a medium that allows listeners to enjoy the experience of a play without leaving home. Its master use of sound demonstrates an ability to play the listener’s imagination like a rusty old organ.