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  • gilwilson 5:30 PM on February 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: classic theatre, , ,   

    She Stoops to Conquer By: Oliver Goldsmith (L.A. Theater Works) 

    She Stoops to Conquer9170561
    By: Oliver Goldsmith
    Performed by: Rosalind Ayres, Adam Godley, Julian Holloway, James Marsters, Ian Ogilvy, Joanne Whalley, Matthew Wolf
    Length: 1 hr and 51 mins
    Release date: 08-25-11
    Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works

    I just can’t get enough of these productions by L.A. Theatre works. They can take a live performance record the audio and release as audiobook without losing anything. Sure it’s nice to be able to watch the performers in action, especially this production’s star, James Marsters. I’ve enjoyed Marsters since back in the Buffy days, but more recently I’ve been enjoying his voice on James Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels he really brings those to life. So while looking at the L.A. Theatre works catalog I see him acting in a couple of the performances and I am eager to give them a listen.

    Back when I was in college getting one of my degrees in Theatre, we saw the play “She Stoops to Conquer.” I thought it was mildly funny at the time. I mean come on this takes the mistaken identity genre to a whole new level. Where the main characters Hastings and Marlow are tricked into believing the home of Mr. Hardcastle is an inn. Both behave badly and hilarity ensues. Okay like I said it was mildly funny.

    This performance is more than mildly funny, I actually laughed out loud several times during the nearly 2 hour performance. L.A. Theatre Works definitely knows the right cast to put into all of their recordings, but something about this one completely surprised me. I think the best part about this was that the actors weren’t necessarily known for comedy, making the “accidental” comedic occurrences even funnier. No one tried for the laugh, just let it happen. It worked. Have some fun and then let people know you listened to a stuffy play from the year 1773. It’ll make you appear more scholarly.

    While the mistaken identity part of the comedy is fun, this play teaches us a little something about class, greed and behavior versus appearance. Just enjoy.

    Publisher’s Summary:

    Starring James Marsters, this classic comedy of manners from 1773 is still widely performed and studied. Love, lies, and dysfunctional families. Sound like your last family gathering? Try this one on for laughs. Two randy young gents, Charles and George, set out to woo the alluring and upper-crust Kate and Constance. But inexperienced Charles is shy and clumsy around upper-class ladies, so it’s the barmaid who catches his eye. But is she really who she seems? Bawdy high-jinx, popped pretensions, and good dirty fun are the hallmarks of this romping frolic that’s kept audiences laughing for over two centuries.

    An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring (in alphabetical order): Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Hardcastle; Adam Godley as Tony Lumpkin; Julian Holloway as Elder Marlow/Stingo; James Marsters as Charles Marlow; Christopher Neame as Roger; Paula Jane Newman as Bet Bouncer/Pimple; Ian Ogilvy as Mr. Hardcastle; Moira Quirk as Constance Neville; Darren Richardson as Diggory/Jeremy; Joanne Whalley as Kate Hardcastle; and Matthew Wolf as George Hastings. Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, in June 2010.

    Public Domain (P)2011 L.A. Theatre Works

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  • gilwilson 6:00 PM on January 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , classic theatre, , , , matthew wolf, , stephen collins,   

    Hamlet By: William Shakespeare (L.A. Theatre Works) 

    Hamlet13399175
    By: William Shakespeare
    Starring: Alan Mandell, Josh Stamberg, Emily Swallow, Stephen Collins, Stacy Keach, JoBeth Williams, Matthew Wolf
    Length: 3 hrs and 13 mins
    Release date: 02-15-12
    Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works

    Before we get to far into this review I have to talk about L.A. Theatre Works. L.A. Theatre Works audio abilities are phenomenal.  I mean, come on, I don’t think I could sit and just listen to a play for 3 hours without getting bored. That is just not the case with L.A. Theatre Works recordings.  A combination of excellent production along with casts that are just phenomenal create an audio theatre experience that will bring the stage to you.

    One of the things that intrigued me most about this was that it had Stacy Keach. I love Stacy Keach’s performances, whether on Cheech & Chong’s “Up In Smoke,” or an episode of “Mike Hammer,” Keach has some serious acting chops. As Hamlet’s father’s ghost Keach hooked me from the beginning.

    With the caliber of actors in all their performances any production from L.A. Theatre Works deserves your attention.

    So in case you have been under a rock for the past 500 years or so, here’s the Publisher’s Summary:

    Shakespeare’s timeless story of revenge, corruption, and murder is considered one of the greatest works in the English language. Composed over 400 years ago, the tragic tale of young Prince Hamlet remains one of the theater’s most studied and performed works, presented here in a new full-cast recording, directed by Martin Jarvis and featuring a special appearance by Stacy Keach as The Ghost.

    An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Josh Stamberg as Hamlet; Stephen Collins as King Claudius; JoBeth Williams as Queen Gertrude; Stacy Keach as The Ghost; Alan Mandell as Polonius; Emily Swallow as Ophelia; JD Cullum as Laertes; Matthew Wolf as Horatio; Mark Capri as Ambassador and others; Josh Clark as Gravedigger, Voltemand and others; Henri Lubatti as Rosencrantz and others; Jon Matthews as Guildenstern and others; Darren Richardson as Player Queen and others; André Sogliuzzo as Reynaldo and others. Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded at the Invisible Studios, West Hollywood, in August 2011.

    ©2012 L.A. Theatre Works (P)2012 L.A. Theatre Works

     
  • gilwilson 10:33 PM on April 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , classic theatre, 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 7:23 PM on January 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: amy madigan, , , , , , , classic theatre, , , , , , 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 9:11 PM on December 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , classic theatre, , , , 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 2:11 AM on October 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , classic theatre, , , , , ,   

    “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare 

    “Macbeth”
    by William Shakespeare
    Multi-cast performance starring James Marsters
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx 2 hours

    While getting my degree in Theatre from Southern Illinois University, I learned to appreciate the works of Shakespeare.   The first thing I learned is that the plays are meant to be performed not just read.  Once I started performing scenes from Shakespeare’s collection I saw how much fun and in depth the stories were.  Yes, even the tragedies were fun, from a performance perspective.  So now when I hear of students having to read Shakespeare I cringe a little knowing they may never learn to appreciate Shakespeare.  In comes  L.A. Theatre Works and their releasing in audiobook format theatrical performances.    I’ve had the chance to listen to several of these and, to be honest, I was leery at first.  I was thinking, how can you turn such a visually dependent medium into an adequate audio book?

    L.A. Theatre Works goes well beyond the adequate, and are able to produce superb audio versions of some great performances.  Most of this lies in the excellent production using sound effects that make sense in the right places and with even more excellent casting.  The many plays always feature accomplished actors, not just famous ones but ones that are capable of filling the role to perfection.  In the case of this release, James Marsters is cast in the lead as Macbeth, and just knocks it out of the park.  There is one scene where the ghost of Banquo sits in Macbeths chair at a dinner party and the issue is that Macbeth begins yelling at the spirit and the other members of the party don’t see the ghost.  In his vocal gymnastics alone on this recording, Marsters is able to explain to the listener that only he sees the ghost.  Great performance throughout by all the actors.

    As for the story of “Macbeth,”  this is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays and carries with it some baggage.  “Macbeth” is considered a cursed play, so much so that theatre tradition does not allow one to mention the name of the play within a theatre,  many refer to it as “The Scottish Play” and when referring to the main characters, just call them “Mr. and Mrs. M.”  The reason behind this superstition goes back many years, the origin is that Shakespeare used some actual witches’ spells when writing it, and as revenge for giving out the secrets of the craft some real witches cursed every mention of the play.

    The play is about a General in the Scottish army who becomes king, but not in a traditional happy sort of way.  Two generals, Macbeth and Banquo are returning from a battle and stumble across three witches in the forest where the tell the two of their fortunes.  Macbeth will be king and Banquo will have his children for many ages become King.

    Putting the thought of becoming King into Macbeth’s head leads to the murder of King Duncan and the fall into madness that surrounds Macbeth.  Soon he must go to the witches again to find out more of his future.  This time around the witches tell him that no man born of a woman can kill him, leaving Macbeth with the false belief that he is invincible.  Tragedy ensues and another classic has been engulfed.  Enjoy this classic performed by wonderful cast.

     
  • gilwilson 1:45 AM on September 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , classic theatre, 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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