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  • gilwilson 12:51 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , audio drama, , 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 11:25 PM on February 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , audio drama, , , , , , , , , ,   

    “WE’RE ALIVE: SEASON 2” Written by Kc Wayland 

    WE’RE ALIVE: SEASON 2
    Written by Kc Wayland
    created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland
    Multi-cast performance
    Published by Blackstone Audio
    Approx 14 hours

    Wow, I couldn’t wait to get to the next season of “We’re Alive,” and this second season is just as good as the first, maybe better.  First of all let me recap a little.

    “We’re Alive” is a podcast audio drama about a zombie apocalypse.  The story was written by Kc Wayland who took a hiatus from his film studies at Chapman University, to enlist in the US Army shortly after 9/11.  While in the Army he trained as a broadcast specialist.  Shortly after training he returned to Chapman to continue his education but halfway through the first semester back he was deployed to Iraq.  He did manage to make it back from the deployment and finish his education.  I mention this because, in the series “We’re Alive, three of the main characters are active duty military and a fourth is an old marine.  Wayland is able to create actions and dialog for these characters with such realism, that you know he’s pulling from his experiences in Iraq.

    The main idea behind “We’re Alive” is that something has created zombies and the survivors must fight some way every day for their survival.  The three active duty soldiers realize that in order to survive they must create a base.  The officer in the group has a girlfriend who lives in a 14 story apartment building and they decide that is the place to make as a safe zone, or rather a base.  In season one survivors come to the “tower” and set up residence in the apartments that are now empty thanks to whatever has turned the people into the walking dead.  Also in Season one the survivors in the tower learn that they not only have to survive a world of flesh eating zombies, but also other humans.  A prison which held some of the most dangerous criminals has been opened and the inmates avoid being turned and take over a mall and set up their base there.  When the tower survivors need fuel for their generators, they go to an old pumping station and take a tanker filled with diesel.  The “mallers” as they become to be know, consider the pumping station theirs and soon a war between the two sets of survivors is waged.

    At the end of season one the tower survivors have managed to fight off the mallers but their tower is on fire and the zombies are trying to get in.  That’s where we begin in Season 2 of “We’re Alive.

    After a lot of work and sacrificing their water supply the tower survivors manage to save the building.  Soon some of the survivors come to the conclusion that the tower is no longer safe.  Some want to stay and fortify but some want to leave, but to leave some things need to happen.  First medical experts are needed.   Two of the soldiers are injured, one, Saul, has a bullet wound that because of only having the most basic of supplies available is not healing well.  Same goes for the other soldier whose broken arm is not healing.  Now the group is run by Burt, the old marine and while he keeps the group together he does it only barely.  One group heads out to find a medical expert, and other go out to find food, water and ammunition.

    The group heading for medical experts is led by Michael, the soldier with the broken arm and former leader of the survivors.  Michael and his group discover that there are different types of zombies and encounter a couple different types.

    On this I have to speak about this concept of different types of zombies.  There is a video game that is hugely popular called “Left 4 Dead,” in which a group of survivors perform missions and have to fight the various types of zombies.  It’s interesting to note that some of the types encountered in that game closely resemble the types mentioned in this story.  I am by no means saying this is a negative thing, in fact, quite the opposite.  This adds a whole new layer in the story possibilities and that is what makes the game popular.  It was just nice that I could relate the two and almost picture them in the same alternate world.  Basically the battle plans have to change when you know the enemy is not just a mindless brain-eater, but rather, they each have different strengths and weaknesses, keeping the story more than interesting.

    Back to the story, Michael and his group discover a rescue center turned into a survivor camp where they have it all going on and it looks like it is to good to be true, and, spoiler alert, it is.  This group has a doctor and Michael will do anything to get help to his friends back at the tower.

    Another side mission is that a couple of the survivors are pilots and soon the search for helicopters begin so they can evacuate the tower and find a safer place, but not before the Mallers threaten again.

    “We’re Alive: Season 2” carries on with the superb audio production.  The sound effects are so real that there were times when driving in Hummers I felt my little compact car was a Hummer and I wanted to go off-road while listening on my commute to and from work.  The acting is superb as well as the dialog.  The dialog is very real, and very engaging.  If you are looking for an audio adventure, go on this one.  If you are a zombie fan make sure you don’t overlook this audio performance.

     
  • gilwilson 10:06 PM on January 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , audio drama, , , , , , , , , , zombie podcast,   

    “We’re Alive: A Story of Survival” (The First Season) Written by Kc Wayland 

    “We’re Alive: A Story of Survival” (The First Season)
    Written by Kc Wayland
    Multi-cast audio drama
    Produced by  Modern Myth Productions, LLC
    Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc (2011)
    Approx. 10.5 hours

    If you are a regular reader of my postings then you already know I’m a huge fan of all things zombie.  What attracts me the most to any zombie story is not necessarily the gore and horror of the zombies but rather the stories of the post-apocalyptic survivors.   I guess really you could say I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, but throw in some zombies and the horror of a body rotting but still living and possibly wanting to eat your brain, and you’ve got some fun.  I think that’s what I liked most about this story is that it focuses mainly on the survival of a few people and what they do to survive.  Sure the author adds his own twists to the flesh eating undead, but the main focus of this audio drama is the survival and relationships of people after the world is nearly wiped out.

    This story was originally released as a podcast and when I found out (sometime last summer) they had already started podcasting the second season.  I knew I wasn’t going to start in the middle so I downloaded the entire season to my iPod.  Well here’s where my frustration came in.  I don’t know if it is something that is eluding me or what, but I cannot, for the life (or undead) of me get my iPod to play podcasts in order from start to finish, instead it wants to play the newest release first.  So what ends up happening is something like chapter 8 first then chapter 7  and playing in reverse order.  I could play each chapter one at a time but when listening I usually don’t have my hands free to constantly click the iPod.  So after listening to the first chapter of the Podcast, I was annoyed so much I deleted the entire 2 seasons from my iPod.  I was mad about this because judging from the first chapter the series was going to be phenomenal.    Then just around last Thanksgiving I found out that Blackstone audio was releasing this series in an audiobook format.  I shouted for joy, and could finally listen to the rest of the story.

    I wish I didn’t have to wait, but I will say the wait was worth it, for several reasons.  First off the production value of this audio drama is through the roof.  While this story could be listened to through a car stereo, headphones, a small set of speakers connected to whatever device or even a full blown stereo every detail can be heard.  I did listen through all of the mentioned devices not just to test this out but because I couldn’t stop listening and no matter where I was if I could hook up my iPod I did.   I’ll start off with the music;  the placement of the music between scenes and at the end of chapters is perfect.   All of the music perfectly reflects the mood of the moment.

    Now to talk about the sound effects.  There are numerous effects needed for this audio drama, first of all you’ve got gunshots, and the folks behind the production didn’t use simple gunshot sounds, rather they went all out.  Each character that uses guns, use different guns, you’ve got Burt with his gun “Shirley” which the character Saul calls his hand cannon, and each time Burt fires that gun you know it’s his gun.  The army guys in the story use a variety of weapons from 9mm hand guns to m-16s and more and each shot sounds like the guns should sound, there are several other weapons used and even the shotgun sounds like a shotgun.  I’m sure that Kc Wayland’s military experience was what made this production use this attention to detail in the drama.  Another aspect are the zombies, there seem to be different types of zombies (I’ll talk more on this later in this review) and each one makes a specific sound and the production quality stays on that same attention to detail when discriminating between each type.  Finally the vehicles used even have their realistic sounds.  When they take a Prius for a drive, it sounds like a Prius.  But I have to say the most fun was when I was listening in my car in the beginning of the story and the three army soldiers are driving a hummer to get to safety, the sound was awesome, I felt I was riding in a hummer with them, it was that realistic.   Based on the sound effects alone this drama was a winner with me, but there’s more, oh so much more.

    Part of that “so much more” is the writing.  Kc Wayland knows how to not only tell a story but to tell a story with real people.  Every piece of dialogue or narration is completely realistic.  The characters are consistent.  One thing I’ve often complained about when watching any zombie movie or even sometimes in a zombie book, is that all of a sudden everyone becomes the expert marksman and is able to make the headshot or that all of a sudden everyone knows what created the zombies and knows how to combat the virus, curse or whatever.  This just makes the movie or book less interesting because it is less believable.  I know, I know, you’re saying, but how can zombies really be believable?   Well maybe they can’t but when a writer, like Wayland, can make the people and the situations believable, that whole zombie thing seems like it is a real occurrence.  That’s exactly what goes on here, everyone is fighting for survival, there are a very few that are expert marksmen, and even though the ones that are experts train the normal civilians, they don’t all become experts.   Not only that aspect but no one in this story (at least not in season one) have any idea of what happened other than dead are rising up and chomping down on the living, and they don’t waste their time with trying to figure out how, they are trying to live and keep living.

    As for the gist of the story, one morning while Army Reserve soldier Michael Cross is getting ready to take a test in his everyday normalcy of college life,  an explosion is felt in the distance, Michael leaves class, under threat that test retakes will not be offered, and finds that mobs are rioting and attacking.  Michael’s reserve unit is immediately called in to the base and he heads to the base to find out what is going on.  Upon arrival he meets up with Saul a former Mountaineering Division soldier and Angel a newbie Officer, they get into the armory to prepare for what looks like mere rioting and when the armory alarm goes off the mass of zombies which include their commanding officer attacks.  The escape in a humvee from the motorpool and decide to go to Angel’s girlfriend’s apartment building, first to check on her and second because the place would make a good securable base.

    On the way they find a couple of survivors and then upon arrival the building’s maintenance man is on scene and trying to get the power back on in the building while fighting off a few zombies.  After clearing out each floor of the 15 floor apartment building they arrive at the top floor to find the building’s owner, Bill, barricaded in and shooting at anything that moves, after not able to reason with him they leave him be.  One of the rescued survivors makes a sign that reads “We’re Alive,” and soon more survivors arrive.

    After setting up a small community they decide to send a party out for supplies, what they discover in the world outside is not too friendly.  Zombies storing the living for food and worse yet a group of survivors from a prison holed up in a mall ready to fight for turf.

    The survival story continues with day to day living and excursions out to try and find out what can be done about the zombies.   They soon find that the undead may not be the worst of their problems, when the “mallers” decide to invade the apartment building.

    This story is phenomenal and every aspect is done right, from the production to the writing, especially when some chapters are told from different survivors’ perspectives.  Get this audio drama now and get hooked.  I’m ready to start Season two now.

     
  • gilwilson 9:36 PM on January 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , audio drama, , , , , , , , , brian minchin, , gareth david-lloyd, , , , , ,   

    “Torchwood: The Sin Eaters” by Brian Minchin 

    “Torchwood: The Sin Eaters”
    by Brian Minchin
    Read by Gareth David-Lloyd
    Produced by BBC Audio / AudioGO (2009)
    2 hours and 11 minutes

    One of the things that attracted me to the television series and audiobooks of “Torchwood” (besides being a “Doctor Who” spin-off) was that they could combine several genres into each and every episode, and, as I’m finding out, the books and audio releases.  The writers of this series are able to blend in Lots of sci-fi (of course) with some horror, drama, comedy and every once in a while a bit of romance.  The latter doesn’t grab me as much as the others, but hey, it’s there.  This story definitely weaves in the horror.

    A little background on the Torchwood series is needed here, especially since this story takes place right about the middle of the Torchwood series timeline.  This story takes place just before the third season of the four seasons that were broadcast, so far.  Torchwood is a super secret not quite government agency that basically saves the Earth from aliens.  Their base is in Cardiff, Wales which also happens to be the location of a rift in time and space from which aliens are always appearing and threatening humanity, sometimes intentionally and sometimes just accidentally slip through the rift.  The series originally started out with five team members but by the end of season two, two of the members had died, leaving only Captain Jack Harkness, the head of Torchwood, Ianto Jones the admin of the agency, now serving in a more prominent function since the loss of the other two members, and Gwen Cooper, former cop.  That’s when this book takes place, sometime just before season three.

    Gwen, Jack and Ianto are investigating some bizarre rift readings (which usually means something is coming through) when they discover a corpse on the beach, the body is clothed in a WWII navy uniform and the body’s face is covered in hundreds of tiny cuts.  They get the body back to the Torchwood base and discover small items within each of the cuts that appear to be egg sacs of sorts.  Further investigation reveal that the egg sacs hatch into small larvae that look like small shrimp.

    At this same time, Rhys, Gwen’s husband, awakes after a night of debauchery at a friend’s bachelor party to discover his friend, the groom is missing.  When he goes to the groom’s home and finds the mother of the groom dead, he calls Gwen.  Gwen and Rhys set off to find the groom after Gwen decides the disappearance and the larvae may be tied together.

    Also at this same time, the Reverend Hayward has found a way to take away people’s sins.  By placing small creatures (larvae?) into the baptismal font that take away the peoples sins, the problem is the creatures feed on the negative emotions and eventually totally consume their hosts.  But this does not stop the reverend in his quest to free humanity of its sins.

    Jack and Ianto discover, in the bay, a sunken ship teeming with the larvae.  The larvae are caring for their “queen” who has enough larvae to destroy all of humanity.  Now only Torchwood with their, better than Bond gadgets, and alien fighting wit must race with time to save the world from these “sin-eaters.”

    In a well told story that combines horror, sci-fi, and some good comedic relief Torchwood and it’s operatives will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

    This audiobook is read by Gareth David-Lloyd, who portrays Ianto Jones in the series.  He does a fantastic job of delivering the drama and even impresses with his voicing of the different characters.  In fact, his voicing of Captain Jack, is spot on, at times I thought I was hearing the voice of John Barrowman, the actor who portrays Captain Jack Harkness.  His voicework and the nice dramatic music for effect make this audiobook a complete adventure.

     
  • gilwilson 7:23 PM on January 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: amy madigan, , , audio drama, , , , , , , , , , steven weber, susan glaspell, , trifles   

    “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell 

    “Trifles”
    by Susan Glaspell
    a full cast audio performance
    starring Jeanie Hackett, Amy Madigan, Sam McMurray, Stephen Vinovich and Steven Weber
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    29 minutes

    Cast:
    Jeanie Hackett as Mrs. Peters
    Amy Madigan as Mrs. Hale
    Sam McMurray as the Sheriff
    Steven Vinovich as Mr. Hale
    Steven Weber as the County Attorney
    Directed by Rosalind Ayres.
    Recorded at The Invisible Studios, Los Angeles in April, 2011.

    Once again I get the pleasure of attending a theatrical performance without leaving my home, okay, actually I left my home because I listened to this production from L.A. Theatre Works in my car on my commute to work.  Being just under 30 minutes of performance time I heard the entire play from beginning to end without interruption.  This one act play is loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which the author, Susan Glaspell, reported on while working as a news journalist for the ‘Des Moines Daily News. Hossack’s wife, Margaret, was accused of killing her husband. However, Margaret argued that an intruder had killed John with an axe. She was convicted but it was overturned on appeal.  The play was written and first performed in 1916.

    Even if it is a one act play, such as this one, L.A. Theatre Works, puts their all into it.  The recordings of the performances are so clear that every movement made by the actors is clear in its intent.  Such as when the women in the play are checking the canned fruit jars, some of which were cracked due to the excessive cold in the house, when the women are pulling out the jars to find one undamaged, every clink of the glass and the scooting of the jars in the cabinet can be heard.  It is amazing that they can create the complete theatre of the mind aspect without over emphasizing anything, it all has intent and once again the production value from L.A. Theatre Works captures all the ambiance of the performance.

    While the title of the play is taken from one of Mr. Hale’s lines, “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.” It also can refer to the time period when women were treated as mere trifles themselves.  “Trifles” is seen as an example of early feminist drama, because it is two female characters’, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale’s, ability to sympathize with the victim’s wife, Minnie, and so understand her motives, that leads them to the evidence against her, while the men are blinded by their cold, emotionless investigation of material facts.

    While the men are investigating the murder scene and other aspects of the house it is the women that uncover the whole story from the clues in the quilting, the broken birdcage and more.  The play doesn’t end with the trial, but only after the women discuss their found evidence and decide not top pass the info on to the men, who probably wouldn’t listen anyway.  The sheriff, says of the kitchen “Nothing here but kitchen things.” This dismissal of the importance of the woman’s life and the male reluctance to enter the “woman’s sphere” is key in the men’s failure to discover the crucial evidence for the case. The most important evidence is found hidden in Minnie’s sewing basket.

    A very haunting play and a brilliant performance produced by L.A. Theatre Works makes for a solid performance you won’t forget.

     
  • gilwilson 2:05 PM on January 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , audio drama, , becky shaw, , , , marsha mason, ,   

    “Becky Shaw” by Gina Gionfriddo 

    “Becky Shaw”
    by Gina Gionfriddo
    Multicast performance starring;Emily Bergl, Matt Letscher, Marsha Mason, Mandy Siegfried, and Josh Stamberg
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    1hour 49 minutes

    One thing about relocating to a small town in the middle of nowhere is that there is a very limited choice of theatrical and cultural experiences. Okay maybe just theatrical, there’s plenty of cultural experiences that come to small towns like harvest festivals, wine tasting festivals and various other, but with only a community college nearby the theatrical experiences are severely limited compared to when I lived in the city. I guess really that’s the one thing I miss, sitting in the darkened theater with live performers, that sometimes are friends and sometimes major celebrities that come to town on a touring performance. Getting lost in the story and the full four dimensional experience that is the theatre.

    Luckily I’ve stumbled across the audio releases from L.A. Theatre works. These recorded performances put you right in the middle of the audience and while the visual aspect of the theatre is missing, the quality of production of the audio keeps you in the performance without missing the visual. The sound effects and audience response are perfectly mixed in to not distract but instead enhance the performance.

    This time around I listened to a contemporary play, “Becky Shaw” written by Gina Gionfriddo. The play is a bit of a comedy of errors type play but may even seem as a bit of a love story with some suspense thrown in, so I guess you could say, a suspenseful comedy of romantic errors. The main characters are Max and Suzana who are raised together after Max’s mother dies and Suzana’s parents take him in. Suzana’s mother suffers from MS and has recently taken a young lover, a mere 4 months after the death of Suzana’s father. During the introductory scene we learn that Max and Suzana may have an attraction to each other. The action starts when we jump a few months later after Suzana has run off to Vegas to get married and Suzanna sets up Max, on a blind date with her husband’s co-worker, the mysterious Becky Shaw. During the date Max and Becky are mugged and what follows is a series of cataclysmic events that forever changes all their lives.

    Mixing sharp wit and humor with the suspense of a psychological thriller, this critically acclaimed play will keep you guessing as to what will happen next. I will warn you the play would be R-rated as the main characters seem to love throwing around the F-bomb. But the performance is spot on, as have been all the plays I’ve heard from LATW. Also the play is a lot of fun with the humor, twists and turns, and quick view of human nature.

    Not until the very end do all things get sorted out, and even then I was still left wondering, who is this Becky Shaw?

     
  • gilwilson 9:24 PM on January 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , audio drama, , , , , , , , , mouthpiece, , , ,   

    “Mouthpiece” by L. Ron Hubbard 

    “Mouthpiece”
    by L. Ron Hubbard
    Multicast performance
    Produced by Galaxy Audio (2012)
    Approx 2 hours

    Being a comic book fan I’ve always been drawn (pardon the pun) to the pulp magazines from the early to mid 20th century.  Actually, the pulp magazines were printed between 1896 and into the 1950s.  Pulp magazines with their thrilling over the top stories and characters and sensational cover art could easily be said to be the founding fathers of comic books.  With authors such as Isaac Asimov, H.P. Lovecraft and L. Ron Hubbard the stories were often more valuable than the mere 10 cent cover price of the pulps.  Many well known authors wrote for the pulps and provided a plethora of short stories that have been nearly forgotten.  The pulps are making a comeback, thanks in small part to the old Quentin Tarantino movie, but the biggest reason for the comeback is the efforts of Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio.

    Since 2008 Galaxy Press/Galaxy Audio have been publishing the stories L. Ron Hubbard wrote for the pulps.  This not only preserves the stories for the future, after all the original pulps were printed on cheap paper (thus the name) and not meant to last, but this re-releasing exposes the readers of today to some fun stories in nearly every genre; mystery, sci-fi, adventure, westerns and more.  The added bonus is that Galaxy Audio is releasing each of these books, which contain one to four stories each in a pulp magazine feeling edition, into audiobooks.

    The audiobooks from Galaxy Audio capture the feel of the original pulp magazines of the pulp era by dramatizing each book in the manner of radio shows from the same era. They use great vocal talent that are able to bring these over the top characters to life, sound effects that keep the story going and incidental music that fits perfectly with each genre and story.  Each time I listen to one of these audiobooks, I’m always amazed at the escapism provided.  By the end of each book I’m left wanting more yet still feeling satisfied by the great stories provided.  Then I have to wait another book for the next issue to be released.  (Actually you could buy the “ePulp” through their website, which is an iPod classic preloaded with all 80 audiobooks with lots of extras including photos, glossaries, videos and more, and not have to wait.)

    This time around I gave the February, 2012 release of “Mouthpiece” a listen.  This audio pulp release from Galaxy audio features for stories from the Mystery genre of L. Ron Hubbard’s pulp writings. These stories were perfect Hubbard stories in that they not only were fun to hear but they included the inevitable Hubbard story twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end.

    The first story in this collection is, “Mouthpiece” originally published in the September, 1934 issue of “Thrilling Detective, and tells the story of Mat Lawrence who returns from building a power dam in the desert to track down the murderer of his gangster father. It had been a long time since Mat Lawrence went to the city. Only something urgent could take him from his job something as urgent and shocking as the grisly murder of his father. His father was a big-time gangster so it was no big surprise, Mat was an honest man but shared his father’s temper which gets him to seek revenge on his father’s murderer.  Seeking the help of his father’s attorney, Mat goes after the murderers and the million dollars that has gone missing.

    Story number two is “Flame City,” originally published in the February, 1935 issue of “Thrilling Detective” and tells the story of Fire Chief Blaze Delaney whose job is in jeopardy because of a rash of fires hitting the city.  Blaze gets help from his son to stop an epidemic of fires and bring the arsonists to justice.

    The third story is “Calling Squad Cars!” originally published in the April, 1934 issue of “Phantom Detective” and tells of a police dispatcher suspected of helping a gang of bank robbers.  When he is fired as dispatcher he fights back by tracking down the gang.  When he is taken hostage by the gang he soon learns how they were able to put out false reports on the police band to cover up their actual heists.  Now the dispatcher must use his skills as an expert radio man to foil the gangs criminal antics.

    The final story is “The Grease Spot,” originally published in the July, 1936 issue of “Thrilling Detective” and tells the story of former race car driver now owner of a wrecking company who has been warned against using the police band as a means to get his tow jobs.  He soon finds himself a captive, at gunpoint, and needing help from the men in blue, or can he turn it around and help them out?

    All four stories in superb audio drama form are the perfect companion for anyone who loves a good mystery.

     
  • gilwilson 12:16 PM on January 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , audio drama, , , , geoffrey cowan, , , , pentagon papers, president nixon, top secret, vietnam, washington post   

    “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” 2008 Tour Edition by Geoffrey Cowan 

    “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” 2008 Tour Edition
    by Geoffrey Cowan
    Multi-cast drama
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2008)
    Approx 2 hours.

    Where did it all go wrong?  When did the government become a source of distrust?  I don’t think there is one single event that caused this current distrust of politics and the government, but according to current Pew research only 26% of those surveyed trust the government.  A lot of this has come from current governmental scandals, but I would go out on a limb and say that a lot of this government distrust started during the Vietnam war era.  That was a time of coverups and secret wars that once the information reached the public the government in general seemed to be a bad guy.

    One of the events that reveal this cover up was the publishing of the “Pentagon Papers” by the New York Times and the Washington Post in 1971.  This release from L.A. theatre works brings to light the events surrounding the release of the Papers by the Washington Post, including the court trial which led to a landmark decision by the Supreme Court which is best summarized by Justice Steward, “without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people.”  The first amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  with the section on free press, provides another check and balance for the government to act in the best interest of its citizens.  This production from L.A. Theatre works not only provides a nice glimpse at this moment in history but also helps to further the lessons learned during this time of cover ups.

    The full cast performance of “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” stars; Diane Adair, Bo Foxworth, John Getz, James Gleason, Gregory Harrison, John Heard, Charles Janasz, Raphael Sbarge, Russell, Soder, Susan Sullivan, Peter Van Norden, Tom Virtue, Geoffrey Wade, and brings to life the events which led to the publishing of the papers and the battle which was brought to court by the Nixon administration.  The play is very well performed and written and with the audience effects LATW puts you right in the middle of the performance.  Based on interviews and court transcripts this story is one that must be heard by all.

    It all starts when an injunction has been served on the NYTimes to stop publication of the “Pentagon Papers,” and the Washington Post reporters and editors see this as an opportunity to scoop the NYTimes by getting their hands on copies of the Paper.  Once the Post begins publishing the Papers, after a long night of soul searching by the reporters and editors, Nixon’s administration jumps in taking the Post to court under the guise of National Security.    Through the trial the paper’s attorneys and editors battle down every argument against publishing the Papers and eventually win, even after the Nixon Administration appeals all the way to the Supreme Court.

    This play is a great representation of a time in U.S. history that changed the world, and is a key story in any freedom of press argument.  Grab this piece of history and enjoy.

     
  • gilwilson 9:11 PM on December 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , audio drama, , , , , , , , oliver goldsmith, she stoops to conquer,   

    “She Stoops to Conquer: or Mistakes of the Night” by Oliver Goldsmith 

    “She Stoops to Conquer: or Mistakes of the Night”
    by Oliver Goldsmith
    a full cast audio performance starring James Marsters, Joanne Whalley and Ian Ogilvy
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2010)
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again I’m going back for a visit to the classics, and this time a classic theatre performance from L.A. Theatre Works.   I originally sought out this audio performance because of James Marsters, I have recently become a fan of his, after listening to his narration of the Dresden Files series of books by Jim Butcher.  Marsters then started showing up in some of the TV programs I watch and well I’ve become somewhat of a fan.  I had listened to a couple of previous productions from L.A. Theatre Works and a couple of them featured Marsters, so I looked to find out what else he’d done with them.

    I remember reading this play back in college and just looking at it as just another play we have to read.  When reading and analyzing it I did find some of it humorous, but very little.  Now that I’ve heard this performance, I find it quite a bit more humorous.  The acting in this production really focuses on the fun parts of the play and with the freedom of not having to get graded on my analysis, I was able to enjoy it more.

    I think the acting is what made this even more fun the cast consists of: Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Hardcastle, Adam Godley as Tony Lumpkin, Julian Holloway as Elder Marlow and Stingo, James Marsters as Charles Marlow, Christopher Neame as Roger, Paula Jane Newman as Bet Bouncer and Pimple, Ian Ogilvy as Mr. Hardcastle, Moira Quirk as Constance Neville, Darren Richardson as Diggory and Jeremy, Joanne Whalley as Kate Hardcastle, and Matthew Wolf as George Hastings.  While I was in this for the James Marsters performance, I can honestly say that all the actors performed so well that no one single person stood out and the production as a whole was a complete success.  So far all of the productions I’ve heard from LATW are perfect.  They put you right smack dab in the middle of the audience and you can’t help but enjoy these performances.

    This play is pretty much a comedy of manners, basically a play about the difference in classes, with the mistaken identities and the expected behaviors, the comedy comes from those acting out of their class.

    A man of wealth, Mr. Hardcastle arranges for his daughter Kate to meet Charles Marlow, the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. Marlow has a problem with women, it seems that when he’s speaking to those of the upper-class he is nervous and stammers and cannot look them in the eye, however the lower class women he has no problem talking with.

    When arriving in town Kate’s cousin Tony Lumpkin intercepts Marlow and sends him to Kate’s home, only Lumpkin tells Marlow it is an Inn and not their home.  Expecting the people of the house to be Innkeepers and servants Marlow treats them as such.  Mr. Hardcastle, unaware of the misunderstanding, takes offense, but Kate sees this as the opportunity to actually be able to talk with Marlow and avoid his nervousness, by pretending to be the barmaid.  During the night the whole mistaken identity and class wars create some good humor until finally someone arrives to straighten out the whole mess and those that are actually in love with each other can be open about their relationships.

    Bravo, LATW, on yet another fine production.

     
  • gilwilson 10:42 PM on November 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , audio drama, , , , , , , , , dirk maggs,   

    “Superman on Trial” Written and directed by Dirk Maggs 

    “Superman on Trial”
    Written and directed by Dirk Maggs
    Multicast performance from BBC Radio
    Published by AudioGo
    1 hour

    First broadcast in 1988 to celebrate 50 years of Superman, This BBC production features the “Man of Steel” standing trial for his crimes against humanity.  With Lex Luthor as the prosecuting attorney and with Lois Lane as Superman’s defense attorney, of sorts.  In the continuity of the Superman Saga this is based partly on “Superman: Last Son of Krypton” and some early issues of “Adventures of Superman.”

    AudioGo has remastered this broadcast and even added in some never-before-heard scenes.  With superb vocal acting, great sound effects and incidental music that pushes the story, this short audio comic book is the perfect way to bring a comic book to audio life.   There are even some fun special guests that make this more than just a story about Superman, but also brings to light how comic books are needed for all ages.

    The trial begins with Superman chained down and unable to move or speak, Lex Luthor insists the trial goes on and Lois Lane is forced to defen Superman.  Luthor brings charges that range from destruction of property to assaulting humans, and with Superman not of this Earth he should be banished to the “Phantom Zone” (negative space created by Superman’s real father Jor-El).  Lois brings witnesses to talk about how Superman has done nothing but stand for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

    The unique aspect of this audio comic book is that the trial then turns to being a message about how comic books in general are important.  This is done with some very cool special guests, Adam West, Jenette Kahn (President of DC Comics) and Dave Gibbons (Co-creator of Watchmen).  These three real life witnesses talk about how comic books, especially Superman comics promote literacy, always teach the reader the difference between right and wrong, and how all ages can and do enjoy comics.  I found it really cool when Adam West was leaving and Batman was entering the courtroom and Batman was delayed getting to the stand.  Very fun subtle context.

    Very nice production bringing an interesting comic book story to life.

     
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