Tag Archive: audio production


RICHMONDcover

“Richmond Smokes a Joint”
By Larry Weiner
Starring: Patricia Tallman as Jean Richmond, Kris Holden-Ried as Sid, Jerry Robbins as Herm
Produced 2014, The Radio Repertory Company of America
Also Starring:
Shells: Michael Burkett, Cap: Jerry Robbins, Sears:D J Vogel, McCarthy: Bob Hunt, Maitre’d: Tom Dheere, Bartender: Bob Arsena, Goin’ North: Kevin Crawley, Robot 365: Tom Dheere, Man: Jon Duclos, Sous: D J Vogel, Man in Stall: Angelo Panetta, Gunner: D J Vogel, Marangian Scout: Tom Dheere, Doplar: Bob Hunt
Length: 37 minutes.

If you are looking for about a half an hours worth of some quick entertainment this may be your book or audio production whichever you prefer. I of course preferred the audio version, since I am a big fan of audiobooks. This one attracted my attention because of my love of the TV series, “Babylon 5.” The lead actress in this production is Patricia Tallman who portrayed Lyta Alexander, the telepath assigned to Babylon 5 by the Psi corps. I see that this is a short space adventure and that seconds my decision to give this production a listen.

With the title “Richmond Smokes a Joint,” I really wasn’t sure what I was in for. Sid “Bum” Knee knows the secret location of the mythical Sacred Plate of Marange. He approaches Richmond’s Boyfriend, Herm, about grabbing the priceless item they are all set on an adventure across space to find the plate and untold riches. The problem is the journey is filled with double crosses on double crosses and by the end of the story you still don’t really know who the good guys are. The ship’s crew is full of colorful characters that keep the story rolling along until the final double cross.

Take a large helping of “Barbarella,” mix in a few dashes of “Airplane” (actually “Airplane 3,” the one that wasn’t quite as funny but tried really hard) and you have this space adventure. Some definite plays on words insert humor throughout, but, to be honest, they may be trying too hard at times. Still, though, it is a nice short mystery space adventure that will entertain most folks.  I know I had fun, even while groaning.

The acting is what really brings out this story, Patricia Tallman pretty much steals the show, but everyone is carrying their weight in the voice talent department. This keeps the story running smooth and helps when some of the “forced” humor actually stings a little.

 

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“Fangoria – Dreadtime Stories Volume 1”
Narrated by Malcolm McDowell
Multicast performances
Produced by AudioGo
4 Hours 12 Minutes

I have always been a fan of Audio Drama, especially radio shows from back in the day and when I received this production from AudioGo, I kept wondering, how did I miss this. This series aired on satellite radio and streaming from the website, so I can see how it has passed me by. But now AudioGo presents these stories in audiobook form so finally I can enjoy them. Being a career terrestrial radio broadcaster, I have not jumped on the satellite radio bandwagon, and probably never will. I have only recently turned to podcasts (even publishing my own weekly podcast) but streaming audio I can’t see myself getting into. So once again AudioGo has brought some really great audio drama to me, and I may investigate at least the streaming audio, maybe.

Either way I now have listened to volume 1 and thoroughly enjoyed it. This collection brings back the classic radio horror feel, much like the shows “Lights Out,” “Suspense,” or “Inner Sanctum.” Malcom McDowell’s narration between segments of each story is superb. He has that charm that invites you in but at the same time his voice has that air of eeriness and suspicion that let’s you know you are in for a ride with the story. The actors in all the stories were all excellent in their roles, making this entire collection a great horror escape.

“Dreadtime Stories – Volume 1” consists of six unique horror stories. Each story has great twists and turns throughout the drama that as a listener you’ll never know how the story is going to end, and they probably won’t end the way you think, or hope, for that matter.

The first story, “The Late Shift” written by Dennis Etchison was a great way to kick off this collection, especially for me. I work until midnight and the commute home from work is when I get some of my best audiobook listening. This story tells the tale of what if all those zombies working the late shift were really zombies. If you have ever been in a convenience store, gas station or fast food place in the overnight, you’ve probably run into at least one of these mindless beings that seem to not quite function at a higher brain power, and just barely get your order or transaction right. In “The Late Shift,” those brain-dead graveyard shift workers are really brain-dead and when one unlucky guy discovers the secret, he may be the next to pull an over night shift.

“Reincarnal” by Max Allen Collins, at first sounded like it may be a sexy horror story, but turns out not to be. A young artist is hypnotized at a party, as part of the party’s entertainment, when she awakens she sees the rest of the party-goers looking at her with concern and a touch of horror. It seems that while under hypnosis she relived a past life in which she was a teenager who was the victim of a mass-murderer on prom night in the eighties. The coincidences begin when another series of murders are occurring that bear a strong resemblance to the same string of murders in which she was a part of in her “past-life.” Now though she is seeing the murders through the eyes of the female victims, and the only person that believes her is a blogger/journalist that helps her track down the killer.

“A Fungus Among Us” by Steve Nubie, is a story that would fit perfectly with those mad scientist 1950s “B” movies. This one hit a bit of synchronicity with me, which tells me I’m listening to the right story at that moment in my life. The Synchronicity this time concerns the Ophiocordyceps fungus. This is known as the “Zombie Ant” fungus. This fungus infects an ant and causes him to stray from the normal behaviours of an ant and when fully mature the fungus explodes a node through the head of the ant and spreads the spores to infect more ants. In this story this is happening to humans. The humans are setting fires, robbing banks and then when caught their skulls explode and a node extends out of their heads. Is this man-made or is the fungal world seeking its revenge?

“Wolf” by Max Allan Collins, is an almost typical were-wolf story. A resort lodge has had a murder occur on its grounds and the victim was mangled as if by an animal. The man under suspicion by the local authorities is a wealthy lodger who checked in on the night of the murder. The man’s name is Mr. Wolf, but remember this is a “Dreadtime Story” so it might not quite be what you expect.

“Living Space” by M. J. Elliott is a story that brings to mind the “Saw” series of movies but a little (not by much) more tame. A young couple have found an apartment in New York that is priced too low to be true, and remember if it is too good to be true, it is. In this case once the trap has sprung there is only one way out can this young couple learn the way that no other tenant could figure out?

The final story in this volume is yet another classic monster brought to modern life, well at least to the 1930s Chicago gangster time. “A Good Head on His Shoulders” is written by Max Allan Collins and brings back one of the top 3 classic movie monsters, this time around a rash of murders is taking place that has the police baffled. Prominent doctors are being slain by a maniac dubbed “The Mangler.” When a local mob boss learns the real namesake of his loyal Doctor Stein he finds out too late that he should have destroyed the brain of his dead rival.

Each of these stories were a perfect companion for those midnight drives home causing me to move a little faster when arriving home and going inside. So do yourself a favor and check out this chilling collection of stories from Fangoria.

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“Death Waits at Sundown”
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-cast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
approx. 2 hours

Holy cow, another month has gone by and it’s time for the next release of Stories from the Golden Age. Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio have been republishing the pulp-fiction works of L. Ron Hubbard into two awesome formats. In the paperback releases you get that old timey pulp fiction magazine feel with the awesome graphics on the cover and pics on the inside. In the Audiobook format they stick with that old timey feel in that the stories are fully produced with a full cast of actors, sound effects, and music that fits every story. This time around they have taken back to the days where the trails were dusty and the cattle were rustled. Which reminds me of a joke…but I’ll wait until the end of the review to tell you.

Every time I listen to one of these books I’m always amazed at the supreme voice talent and production that goes into each of the stories. You gotta realize that back in the day when writing for the pulps L. Ron Hubbard created over the top characters and to get readers that was a must. In these audio productions this over the top aspect of the characters is carried through with the excellent voice work. Each character in the story has a significant part to play and the voice actors all portray every aspect of the character through their excellent acting. The voices are superb.

I have mentioned him in the past, but I want to talk more about Jim Meskimen. He has performed and directed in many of the stories in these audiobooks and even narrated and a few. Jim Meskimen is a talent that is out of this world, maybe even not of this Earth. He is well known for his impersonations that are nothing shy of astounding (check out his viral youtube video http://youtu.be/j8PGBnNmPgk ). This time around the cast not only includes Jim but also Tamra and Taylor Meskimen. I’m pretty sure I’m right in saying that Tamra is his wife and Taylor is the result of these two outstanding talents passing their extremely talented genes to their offspring. So with this cast, which also includes Fred Tatasciore, R.F. Daley, Shannon Evans, Taron Lexton, Phil Proctor and Michael Yurchak, you are getting some excellent vocal talent that can create a full theatre of the mind experience that these classic stories deserve.

This audiobook consists of the following three stories:

“Death Waits at Sundown” originally printed in the October, 1938 issue of “Western Story” magazine tells of Lynn Taylor, a hard-riding, two-fisted Texan who plans depriving the town of Pioneer of its necktie party because just wants to substitute another victim, the real criminal. Taylor’s kid brother, Lee, gets framed for stage robbery, cattle rustling (that joke is coming) and murder, the boy swears his innocence and instead accuses McCloud, head of the vigilante committee responsible for removing the town’s former sheriff. with the help of the former sheriff, Lynn sets up a trap for McCloud.

“Ride ’Em, Cowboy!” originally published in the July, 1938 issue of “Western Story” magazine is a great cowboy competition story between a Cowboy and a Cowgirl. When a champion bronco-buster and the girl he wants to marry, but constantly quarrels with, compete for the same prize at a rodeo, the results are unexpectedly romantic, but still with some good ol’ cowboy action involved.

“Boss of the Lazy B,” originally published in the September, 1938 issue of “Western Story” magazine shows that there’s only one kind of justice for a kidnapper and a thief and the boss of the Lazy B dispenses it with authority. I gotta say that the voice of the Boss is the coolest in this collection, you’ll see when you listen.

So, do yourself a favor and punch some dogies or just get this super awesome audiobook.

Okay now for that joke:

An Arizona cowpoke rides into a small Texas town and notices a gallows being set up in the middle of town. When he walks into the town saloon he says to the bar-keep, “Looks like you folks is gettin’ set for a hangin’.” The bar-keep says, “yep, they’s ahangin’ Brown Paper Pete.” “Brown Paper Pete?” asks the cowpoke, “Why do they call him that?” “Well,” explains the bar-keep, ” He wears brown paper chaps, a brown paper vest, and wears a brown paper 10 gallon hat.” The cowpoke asks, “What are they hangin’ him for?” The bar-keep answers, “Rustlin’.”

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.

“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.

“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.

“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?

“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.

“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.

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