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  • gilwilson 10:08 PM on July 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arthur miller, , broken glass, David Dukes, , Jane Brucker, , , John Vickery, , , , Linda Purl, , , paralysis, ,   

    “Broken Glass” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “Broken Glass”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by: Jane Brucker, David Dukes, Lawrence Pressman, Linda Purl, John Vickery and JoBeth Williams.
    Approx 2 hours

    This play marks a bittersweet moment for me, in that it is the last performance in “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre works. Bitter, because it is the last one and sweet, because after listening to these ten plays I can pretty much consider myself a scholar of Arthur Miller.

    While getting my degree in Theatre, I had the opportunity to study Arthur Miller, but L.A. Theatre Works’ performances are all top-notch. These performances are produced for audio in such a way that puts the listener in the middle of the audience, aurally. While I know well that theatre is a visual art as well, the words make the difference and when they are performed so well the visuals are just icing on the cake. L.A. Theatre Works productions are all icing and cake with great acting, subtle, yet effective, sound effects and great music that fit the settings of the plays.

    “Broken Glass” is set in 1938, and this psychological mystery begins when Sylvia Gellburg suddenly loses her ability to walk. Her husband is worried about the woman he adores and seeks help from the neighborhood doctor. After consulting with another doctor, Dr. Hyman cannot find any physical reason for her paralysis. The only clue lies in Sylvia’s obsession with news accounts from Germany where old men are being forced to clean the sidewalks with toothbrushes. Though she is safe in Brooklyn, Sylvia is terrified by Nazi violence, or is it something closer to home? It is up to Dr. Hyman to find the solution.

    Mr. Gellburg, in a way, also becomes the patient of Dr. Hyman as Mrs. Gellburg’s diagnosis is revealed to be hysterical paralysis. Mr. Gellberg is appalled at the idea that it is all in her head.

    Dr. Hyman learns that Mr. Gellburg goes out of his way at times to deny he is a Jew and other times to use being a Jew in his favor. This has created a fear in Mrs. Gellburg that is comes out even more as she reads newspaper stories or hears radio reports about the torture of the Jews. What it all comes down to is that the choices made whether you accept what is given or you make a stand for what you believe is the turning point in life and what you do determines who you are.

    A nice play and a very nice performance, that is well worth the time, money and effort to put into your listening list.

     
  • gilwilson 9:44 PM on July 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , arthur miller, , , , , , , Brian Cox, , , Jenny O’Hara, Kirsten Potter, , , , Saidah Arrika Ekulona,   

    “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan” by Arthur Miller 

    “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by: Brian Cox, Jenny O’Hara, Amy Pietz, Kirsten Potter, Gregory Itzin and Saidah Arrika Ekulona
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again it’s time to listen to another play from “The Arthur Miller” collection from L.A. Theatre Works. I’ve been listening to this collection interspersed with all my other audiobook listening so I can stretch it out. There are ten plays in this collection and this is next to the last, I’m gonna miss having these two hours between books.

    What I like most about these audio recordings is that with the superb production quality, I feel as though I’m right in the middle of the performance, and with the great casting, the actors really bring these plays to life.

    Most of Arthur Miller’s plays are tragedies, but this one is kinda hard to categorize. The tragedy of this play takes place at the beginning and how the main character tries to weasel out of this tragedy almost turns this play into a comedy.

    Lyman Felt is an insurance agent/mogul. He’s made enough money to own two homes one in New York City and one in Elmira, New York. His money has also made it possible for him to support two families. Those two families are his own, you see, Lyman is a bigamist. He has two loving wives one child with each of those wives.

    The tragedy that begins this play is that Lyman, while driving down the icy road down Mt. Morgan goes off the road and ends up in the hospital. As he awakens in the hospital he is stuck in bed as the nurse tells him his wife is waiting to see him. As Lyman comes to full consciousness, he begins to realize it’s his wife of more than thirty years, Theo, is the first to visit. The problem is Mt. Morgan is near his Elmira home where his wife of only nine years, Leah, lives. Sure enough both wives end up meeting and the issue of Lyman’s bigamy is confronted head on.

    When confronted, Lyman states that the two options in life are to be true to others, which includes a hypocritical world, or to himself, and that he has chosen the himself. He justifies his actions by explaining he has given them good lives, has supported them financially and emotionally, and has been a good father. This is all presented in a series of flashbacks that are so well presented in this performance that I always knew a flashback was happening. Lyman goes on to say that the two women have been happier with this arrangement than they would have been if they had been the only wife. As reasons for this he cites domestic boredom, routine, and the angst of being trapped in the same relationship forever. The play uses flashbacks to take us to previous situations both families have lived.

    So this brings up the question; Which wife will take him back? Through the flashbacks and some rather humorous discussions between wives, attorneys, nurses and Lyman this performance will make you chuckle, and, at times, cringe at Lyman’s justifications.

     
  • gilwilson 10:33 PM on June 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amy Irving, arthur miller, , , , , , Harris Yulin, , , , , , Timothy West   

    “The Price” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “The Price”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, Timothy West and Harris Yulin.
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again I’m continuing my trek through this collection of 10 plays by Arthur Miller published by L.A. Theatre Works, “The Arthur Miller Collection.” This one is number eight in the collection, the plays could be heard in any order, I’m just going through them as they are presented in the collection, with the exception of “Death of a Salesman” which I had to hear first.

    This performance features a cast of Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, Timothy West and Harris Yulin. Richard Dreyfuss has always been one of my favorite actors and he does a superb job in the role of Victor Franz, A police sergeant, eligible for retirement and approaching his fiftieth birthday. His ability to sound completely like a New York cop was superb in this performance. All the actors were excellent in this performance, I just think Dreyfuss stood out, most likely because he is the main character, but definitely a stand out performance.

    The character of Victor Franz opens the play with his wife, Esther, as they both prepare to sell off Victor’s father’s house full of furniture. The house is about to be demolished and the lifetime of collected furniture must go. Victor has called in a furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon, to make an offer on all the furniture. As they are waiting on Solomon, Victor begins reminiscing about his life in that home taking care of his father. The father was unable to take care of himself after Victor’s mother died, so Victor quit school, in which he was studying to most likely become a doctor. Victor joined the force to support his father, and his brother, Walter continued in school to become a very successful doctor.

    Victor has some anger built up toward his brother because he would only send five dollars a month to support. During the process of coming up with a price for all the furniture, Walter shows up at the house and all the past comes up and angers flare. The true source or resentment comes out and the brothers go back and forth talking about the price each had to pay when their father broke down.

    The play builds and builds until the emotional end to which not all is solved, but barriers have been brought down. This play is one of your typical Arthur Miller plays depicting the struggles of every man. Miller was a great writer of our everyday life and dreams, of the most American kinds of struggles, disappointments and confusions and was able to portray those in the simplest of settings for his plays.

     
  • gilwilson 9:43 PM on June 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andrew Hawkes, , arthur miller, , Ben Diskin, , concentration camps, , , incident at vichy, , , Jon Matthews, , , , , , , Robert Lesser, Shahar Sorek, socialism, ,   

    “Incident at Vichy” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” Published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “Incident at Vichy”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection” Published by L.A. Theatre Works
    starring: Ben Diskin, Arye Gross, Jamie Hanes, Andrew Hawkes, Gregory Itzin, Robert Lesser, Jon Matthews, Lawrence Pressman, Raphael Sbarge, Armin Shimerman and Shahar Sorek.
    70 minutes

    “Incident at Vichy” has got to be one of the most intense one-act plays ever. In just over one hour Arthur Miller manages to tell a story that begins with hope but ends with hopelessness. Knowing world history this is one of those plays that while the world knows the general outcome, of the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, but this play explores the how. Looking back from our 21st century viewpoint it is really hard to see how Germany got by with what was done to the Jews and how they managed to gather all those listed as inferior and put them in Death Camps. This play demonstrates how human nature, guilt, fear, and enabled the Nazis to perpetrate the Holocaust with so little resistance.

    This one-act play takes place in a police station where a group of detainees are waiting for inspection by German officers. The detainees are all trying to deny the actual reason they were brought in (because the are suspected of being Jews) and try to tell themselves that it is a routine document check. But when some bring up that their noses were measured, and they all realize that most of them are Jews, then the fear of the real reason begins. Each one has story to tell and most of the stories are about escaping German occupied France to Vichy where they think they would be safe.

    At one point one of the detainees tells of rumors of the Death Camps and the furnaces. Some of the more able-bodied remaining detainees attempt an escape but it is thwarted by the French major who is an injured veteran of the German / French part of the war, and is now forced to assist the Germans. Each one is pulled into the interrogation room some leave to go back to work some are not seen again.

    The final scene in this play is when the last detainee is trying to convince the major to let him go and the discussion over whose life is more valuable begins.

    The play is an enlightening glimpse into the darker side of human nature and is by no means one that will lift your spirits, however,the cast in this performance are perfect in their character representations. Another great production from L.A. Theater Works.

     
  • gilwilson 9:55 PM on May 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: after the fall, Al Ruscio, Amy Aquino, amy brenneman, , Anthony LaPaglia, arthur miller, Claudette Nevins, , , Kenny Williams., , marilyn monroe, Natalija Nogulich, ,   

    “After the Fall” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “After the Fall”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    performed by: Amy Brenneman, Anthony LaPaglia, Amy Pietz, Amy Aquino, Gregory Itzin, Claudette Nevins, Natalija Nogulich, Al Ruscio, Raphael Sbarge and Kenny Williams.
    2 hours and 4 minutes.

    Continuing my listening through “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works with this one being the sixth of ten plays. “After the Fall” is one of Miller’s least famous plays but one that is extremely autobiographical. The play takes place inside the tortured mind of a 40-year-old lawyer. Quentin is haunted by his disastrous affair with a needy sex symbol, a character rumored to be based on Marilyn Monroe, Miller’s second wife.

    The part of Quentin is played by Anthony LaPaglia, and his voicework for this performance is perfect. He portrays the tortured soul of Quentin who struggles with his problems with women which may have started with his mother. When Quentin was a child the family had the nanny take him out for a walk and when he returned the house was empty. When the family returned back from vacation his mother explained he was too young and she needed a break. Seems like this would psychically damage any kid.

    The part of Maggie, the sex symbol, which could be based on Marilyn Monroe, is performed by Amy Brenneman. I remember Amy portraying a tough cop on the TV series “NYPD Blue,” but in this play she plays, well, Marilyn Monroe. Her voicework is superb, in that she sounds exactly like a squeaky voiced blonde. I had a hard time seeing that tough cop in this performance.

    One of the things I really enjoyed about the is performance was the surrealism of the whole story. The play takes place in the head of Quentin, and the scenes all portray various memories of his failed relationships and trying to take care of Maggie as she becomes more and more famous. Through this process the story is told non-linearly, in other words it is told through a series of memories not in their actual order of occurrence. I’ve always loved stories told in this manner and as this performance progressed I was sucked into the story by making me have to tie in all the events.

    The echo effects on the voices of memories as they come into focus is a production aspect that makes this performance work perfectly in an audio format.

    With great production and perfect vocal performances this release from L.A. Theatre Works delivers a superb Arthur Miller play that, while it may not be as famous as “Death of a Salesman,” should be on the list of any theatre fan.

     
  • gilwilson 3:22 PM on May 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , arthur miller, , , , , Charles Cioffi, Don Tieri, , Ed O’Neill, greek tragedy, Harry Hamlin, immigration, , , Mary McDonnell, Peter Morse,   

    “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller (from “The Arthur Miller Collection” produced by L.A. Theatre Works) 

    “A View from the Bridge”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    Published by L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by; Charles Cioffi, Harry Hamlin, Jamie Hanes, Mary McDonnell, Peter Morse, Ed O’Neill, Amy Pietz and Don Tieri
    1 Hour 33 minutes

    Back in my college days I studied and got a degree in Theatre. During that time I had the chance to talk about, see performed, write reports on plays by Arthur Miller. One of the things I noticed back then was the similarities between Miller’s writings and ancient Greek tragedies. Miller’s stories told of how our actions have reactions and most of the time he was quick to show that our bad actions had bad reactions. In some cases those bad actions were even full of good intentions, such as the father in “All My Sons” training his son in the basement for baseball, but once he got on the field was distracted by the sounds. This led to a son that when he reached adulthood knew nothing but pitching and even that was flawed, so his life was ruined.

    I’m still listening to the ten plays featured in “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works and this time around just finished with “A View from the Bridge.” This is one play I was looking forward to hearing because during my studies I never had the chance to see this one performed. After finishing this production, I’m in awe, for several reasons. One reason is the main character Eddie Carbone is portrayed by Ed O’Neill. I know I think of Mr. O’Neill as Al Bundy from the “Married with Children” television series, and have a hard time shaking that image, but after hearing this performance, it’s going to be hard seeing him as Al Bundy. Ed O’Neill carries this play in this performance and thanks to the excellent production from L.A. Theatre Works, I felt as though I was smack dab in the middle of the audience.

    The play is set in 1950s Brooklyn, NY in an Italian neighborhood. Eddie Carbone is a longshoreman who lives with his wife, Beatrice, and his orphaned niece, Catherine. Eddie is very protective of Catherine, and at times maybe too protective. There are times that the subtext may imply that Eddie won’t let Catherine out in the world because maybe he wants her for himself. Filled with Freudian moments the relationship between Eddie and Catherine in this play could warrant an entire analysis.

    When Beatrice’s two cousins come into the country illegally they come to stay in Eddie’s home. The tension rises when one of the cousins and Catherine develop a friendship that leads to marriage. Eddie insists he only wants to marry her so he can become a legal citizen. When they begin talking about getting married soon Eddie calls the Immigration Department in to take the two men in and deport them. One of the cousins was in the country to earn money to send back to his wife and kids to provide for a better life and takes this as a personal attack from Eddie.

    One of the things that makes this play even more comparable to a Greek tragedy is that it employs both a chorus and a narrator in the form of Alfieri, the attorney who Eddie seeks out for advice.

    As a side here, this story is yet another play written to portray the McCarthyism that was sweeping the nation during the 50s.

    This audio performance is available in “The Arthur Miller Collection,” from L.A. Theatre Works.

     
    • Dennis 12:33 AM on March 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      “A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (from The
      Arthur Miller Collection produced by L.A. Theatre Works) | Gil T.
      ‘s Pleasures” Panel Curtains was indeed a remarkable post. If only there was a whole lot more websites like this particular one on the actual world wide web. Nonetheless, thanks a lot for your time, Julius

      Like

  • gilwilson 10:52 PM on May 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arthur miller, carol kane, , , , mccarthyism, , , , salem witch hunt, salem witches, , , ,   

    “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller from the “Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works 

    “The Crucible”
    by Arthur Miller
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Included in “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    Starring: Irene Aranga, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr, Georgia Brown, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Judyann Elder, Hector Elizondo, Fionnula Flanagan, Ann Hearne, Carol Kane, Stacy Keach, Anna Sophie Loewenberg, Marian Mercer, Franklyn Seales, Madolyn Smith, Joe Spano and Michael York
    118 minutes

    Continuing on in this collection of 10 plays from L.A. Theatre Works’ “The Arthur Miller Collection,” I’ve just finished with a very cool play that has a bit of a double meaning. “The Crucible” was Arthur Miller’s answer to the Communism accusations from McCarthyism and the blacklisting of accused communists. During the days when Senator McCarthy was finding Communists hiding behind every doorway, Arthur Miller was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended. So what seemed like a witch hunt Arthur was spurred to write “The Crucible.” While “The Crucible” may not be entirely historically accurate it does represent the scare tactics and deplorable actions during the Salem Witch trials and the Committee on Un-American Activities.

    L. A. Theatre works has produced a great version of this play with some of the greatest actors ever. Each one brings to audio life this play that portrays a dark time in history and serves as an allegory for another dark time centuries later. The cast alone is enough to move the play along in this production, but there is one other “actor” that is not credited that really allowed me as a listener to feel the burdens of the convicted Satanists, that “actor” was the special effects, especially those of the chains used to hold the prisoners. The sound effects of the chains was so real and yet surreal in that their audio level was promoted to the point where I could feel the weight of the chains myself. This really made the experience more life-like.

    When a girl of the village of Salem, Massachusetts is found unconscious, and is suspected because of dabbling in witchcraft accusations begin to fly. What soon happens is that one of the local farmers’ wife is accused by a girl who once had an affair with the farmer and wants the wife out of the way. Soon many of the women and even some men are bound in chains and thrown in jail. With the threat of unChristian activities set to destroy the very fabric of the town and government, the accused are threatened to either confess their dealings with Satan or be hanged. Even if they have nothing to confess if they don’t confess they get hanged.

    In a play that presents the choice of lying to live and destroy your reputation or tell the truth and be killed and thus destroying the reputation of your family, the drama and suspense abounds. The language written in the play pulls from the sound of the language of the Bible and each actor makes the words sound so natural that it adds more depth to the play. Top it off with this excellent cast and production and this is one version of “The Crucible” you won’t want to miss.

     
  • gilwilson 12:51 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arthur miller, , , , , james farantino, julie harris, , , performance, , , ,   

    “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller from the “Arthur Miller Collection” by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “All My Sons”
    by Arthur Miller
    included in the “Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by: James Farentino, Arye Gross, Julie Harris, Mitchell Hebert, Naomi Jacobson, Barbara Klein, Paul Morella, Michaeleen O’Neil, Nathan Taylor and Jerry Whiddon.
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 Hours.

    I’m continuing my run through this collection of 10 plays by Arthur Miller that is “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre works and this next play is “All My Sons.”  I’m going to include this in one of the depressing plays from Arthur Miller, the entire premise is sad, and in fact this one really reminded me of a classic Greek Tragedy, in that a character committed an act that haunts him until his tragic end.  This time around the act is to allow faulty aircraft parts to go out during war and end up killing pilots.

    Before we talk about the story I have to talk about the production itself.  L.A. Theatre Works produces plays in audio format and every one I have heard, so far, has been a joy to hear.  Not necessarily due to the subject matter, as this play proves, but in the production itself.   Each performance is recorded with a live cast and with all the elements combined the listener feels as though they are placed smack-dab in the middle of the audience.  Being a student of theatre I was leery at the idea of theatrical performances in audio format.  The reason being, theatre is a visual art.  But the excellent production in all of LATW’s releases have taken the visual part out of the equation and mad these fully enjoyable in audio only format.  In all my previous listenings, LATW has pulled this off perfectly.

    With that said there was one minor scene in this story that just didn’t work right for me.  I’m not sure if it was because I was missing something visually or what but it just didn’t feel right.  It’s the scene where Kate’s brother, George comes back to confront Joe about the criminal act that put George & Kate’s father in prison while Joe went free.  When he arrives he was very angry, then suddenly in the scene he was congenial and ready to go out to dinner, only to immediately go back to being angry and storming off.  The mood changes in this scene seemed forced and just didn’t make sense at the moment.  However the scene is needed and later on in the performance all goes back to being perfectly performed and produced that that scene is forgiven.   By no means let that keep you from listening to this otherwise stellar performance of “All My Sons.”

    Another aspect of all the productions of LATW is the casting.  Each time I hear one of these performances I love knowing the actors names.  In this performance Arye Gross portrays Chris the son who is the center of the play, and he owns the part.  His portrayal is spot on and superb.  Sure, he’s got the support of James Farantino and Julie Harris, but Gross just makes the character come to life in his performance.

    In August 1946 Joe Keller, a self-made businesmann,  who once manufactured parts for the war effort, is contemplating a tree that has been taken down by a recent storm.  The tree was planted in memory of his son, Larry, who died in the war.   His son, Chris, is visiting and has invited Larry’s girlfriend to the homestead to ask her to marry him.   The problem with all of this is that Kate, Joe’s wife and Chris’s mother, believes Larry is still alive and will coming back.

    Ann’s father is in prison for selling faulty engine blocks for p-40 aircraft that ended up killing the pilots that flew with them.  He claims that he alerted Joe to the problem but Joe had the parts sent out anyway so he wouldn’t lose the government contract.  Joe says he was sick the day that Steve, Ann’s father, called and did not know.  A neighbor reveals that everyone on the block thinks Joe is guilty.

    Kate says Joe cannot be guilty because that would mean he killed their son and all those other boys.   In a play where family secrets are kept tight and the final outcome could destroy everyone, Arthur Miller has written a depressing yet eye-opening play.  The idea of business matters over safety is a lesson that is apropos even today.

     
    • Tanya/ dog eared copy 1:37 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I just posted my own review of this same production on my own blog a couple of days ago and I find interesting that we both mentioned the scene with George as being problematic and; that we both referred to Greek Tragedy! However, whereas you saw that scene as an anomaly in an otherwise excellent production, I was less impressed with the overall performance. I found the unrelenting fervor a bit wearing.

      Like

      • gilwilson 2:40 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Just went over to your blog and read…yeah you weren’t too happy overall.
        I thought the play was very strong otherwise, Arye Gross seemed to carry this performance for me. And yes that scene….ugh…It just didn’t quite make sense as it happened, but later in the play I understood what happened, but (and this is coming from an audio professional) i think the problem with this may have been an editing problem. I think there should have been longer silences or bigger gaps between the emotional changes. I would love to see this performed live and try to figure out what is missing in that scene.

        While I don’t full agree, i do like your “ham-fisted” description of the scene…just the term ham-fisted, i guess.

        When I read this play in college my comparison back then was to a Greek Tragedy as are most of Arthur Miller’s plays. He definitely wrote some tragic plays…death of a salesman was also a good Greek Tragedy type play. (btw, since you have the same collection I have, you’ll be listening to that one soon, I’m guessing, Stacy Keach rules that performance.)

        I also see you are listening to “We’re Alive” I loved that series…how’s that one going for you?

        Like

  • gilwilson 10:33 PM on April 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arthur miller, , contemporary theatre, , everyman, , , , , midwest, , ,   

    “The Man Who Had All the Luck” by Arthur Miller (produced by L.A. Theatre Works “The Arthur Miller Collection”) 


    “The Man Who Had All The Luck”
    by Arthur Miller
    Full Cast Performance Starring:
    Emily Bergl, Kevin Chamberlin, Tim DeKay, James Gammon, Lee Garlington, Graham Hamilton, Tom McGowan, Kurtwood Smith, Russell Soder and Tegan West
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 hours

    I have recently discovered the magic of theatrical productions from L.A. Theatre Works, and they are now among my list of top 3 audiobook producers.   L.A. Theatre Works records live theatre performances and releases them as audiobooks, making a huge selection of plays,  from classic to contemporary, available for consumption.  The nice thing about these is that the audio production quality put into these releases not only places you in the middle of the audience but the high caliber of acting makes it so the plays will keep you intrigued and wanting for more.  At least that is what has happened to me.

    This time around I listened to another Arthur Miller play (previously I had listened to the Arthur Miller play “Death of a Salesman” starring Stacy Keach).  Arthur Miller wrote many plays about the everyman and created plays that explored the struggles of man.  L.A. Theatre works has put together a collection of his plays called “The Arthur Miller Collection” which includes 10 plays which includes this one.  It also includes, “Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible,” and more.  I recently got my hands on this collection after listening to “Death of a Salesman” so I could explore more about this American Classic that is Arthur Miller.

    What makes the productions from L.A. Theatre works so good is that through attention to detail recording and production, take a live performance and turn it into an audio medium.  Listening to these performances (and this one is no exception) I felt as if I were in the middle of the audience, with applause and sound effects from the performance pushing that feeling.  The one thing that totally surprised me is that I did not miss any of the visual aspect of the performances and was able to enjoy the full effect of the play(s).  I can’t wait to get on with the rest of this collection, with 2 down and 8 to go, I’m going to spread them out a bit, besides, they are only around two hours each so they are perfect to get in between other audiobooks and while doing all my daily functions.

    “The Man Who Had All the Luck,” is about a young Midwestern boy, David Beeves, who seems to have all his life handed to him, or rather lucks into whatever he gets.  He’s set up in a barn as a mechanic and everyone takes their cars in for repairs, yet he’s never had any training and admits he doesn’t know anything about fixing cars, but he seems to get the job done.  When he is having a problem with a particular car a stranger out of nowhere walks in and is able to fix the car.  When he can’t get married to his girlfriend until her father is out of the way, the father dies in an automobile accident.  When he builds a gas station, the state decides to put a highway right in front of it.  When Beeves gets older he begins to wonder what is going to happen when his luck runs out, is he due for a disaster to pay back for all the luck?

    This play fully explores the question whether fate or hard work decides a man’s future.  David’s brother, Amos, is trained by his father day in and day out to be an expert baseball pitcher, but how does all that hard work pay off?  Not in the way that it would for David and his “Midas Touch.”

    On a side-note here; Kurtwood Smith plays the part of David’s father and is constantly training Amos.  Kurtwood is the one who played Red Foreman in “That 70s Show,” and deep down inside (because I was a fan of the character he played on that show) I wanted him to say a line from the show (I won’t say the line here, but you probably know which one, if you ever watched the show).  But just knowing how great of an actor he was I was happy enough just to hear his voice.

    One of the 10 great plays by Arthur Miller, produced by L.A. Theatre Works and cram packed into this “Arthur Miller Collection.”

     
  • gilwilson 1:45 AM on September 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arthur miller, , , , , , death of a salesman, jane Kaczmarek, , , , , willie loman   

    “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller 

    “Death of a Salesman”
    by Arthur Miller
    a full cast audio performance
    starring Stacy Keach and Jane Kaczmarek
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    approx 2 hours

    Once again I’m going back to my theatre roots and listening to an audio performance of a classic play, “Death of a Salesman.”  While in college I acted out a scene from this play and from that moment I fell in love with it.  Not sure why, I mean, it’s not really a happy play, but something about this play grabbed me.  I think mainly because it was the first play I’d read and performed and that it seemed to tell it straight.  Life does not always turn out like you want.

    When I ran across this audio performance from L.A. Theatre Works (LATW), I knew I had to give it a listen mainly because of Stacy Keach.  He’s a subtle actor yet can give you a larger than life performance.  In this performance he knocked it out of the ball park.  I had seen a version of the play on television with Dustin Hoffman as Willie Loman and thought at that time I had just seen the only person who I could ever picture as Arthur Miller’s salesman.  But now I have to shift that to Keach.  Mr. Keach performed the role to perfection.  As you can see, I was highly impressed.

    Everyone in this performance was great, Jane Kaczmarek (you know, the mom in TV’s “Malcolm in the Middle”) did a wonderful job as Willie’s wife, Linda, but let’s face it the play is about Willie Loman, and the star shined brightly.  Actually while were talking about being impressed, this makes the 4th or 5th performance from LATW that I’ve heard and each time they impress me, not only with excellent casting, but the productions are superb.   Each release places the listener directly into the audience of the performance, with excellent sound effects, music and just a dash of the audience response to remind you you are listening to a performance.

    “Death of a Salesman” is the story of an aged salesmen who was always wanting the best for his family.  He wanted his boys to grow up and be well liked, not just liked, but WELL liked.  The problem is that the reality of Willie Loman’s life never really matched up to his dreams.  He is full of regrets, such as missed opportunities, never knowing his father and his son, Biff who was a High School football star that could have gone on to play in college.  The problem is that Biff flunked out of Math and refused to go to summer school and never went to college.

    The play takes place in Willie & Linda’s home when Biff is back from “out west.”  Hap, the other son, who is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps still lives near to home, is also visiting.  Willie cuts short his trip from Boston because he nearly runs off the road while driving.  Wille has lately become a victim to his mind wandering and he starts revisiting his memories out loud.

    The play is told with a constant barrage of flashbacks from Willie’s point of view as he begins to see the reality of his dream.  Linda tells her sons of Willie’s troubles and that she believes he is trying to kill himself.  It all builds up to a scene, where to make their father happy, Biff and Hap attempt to go into business together, but reality comes crashing down on everyone leaving a tragic ending.

    This performance from L.A. Theatre Works is superb in every manner and this classic play is one that should not be missed.

     
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