Tag Archive: l.a. theatre 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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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

War-of-the-Worlds_349

Audio Drama Review: “War of the Worlds”

By H.G. Wells, Radio play adapted by Orson Welles

A full cast audio performance

Produced by L.A. Theatre Works

Total Running Time 77 Minutes

 

Okay are you ready for a full on nerdgasm?  This one is it.  L.A. Theatre works distributed free copies of this audio drama on Halloween this year.  I have always been a fan of the Orson Welles dramatization of the H.G. Wells classic space invasion story.  I also am a big fan of the audio dramas produced by L.A. Theatre Works, I have listened to many of their classic stage performances turned audio and every single one is the perfect production from stage to audio that when listening you feel as though you are in the center of the audience.

 

But what got me the most, and this is where the nerdgasm comes in, was the cast of this production.  This production stars; John de Lancie,  Gates McFadden, Leonard Nimoy,  Armin Shimerman, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton , Tom Virtue,  Jerry Hardin,  Megan Fay and Daryl Schultz.  It is directed by John de Lancie and Recorded before a live audience at Guest Quarters Suites, Santa Monica, CA in October, 1994.  So yes all you Star Trek fans get a supreme dose of actors from the series and a great sci-fi production.

 

The radio adaptation of this story has an intriguing history.  When Orson Wells first performed the adaptation on Halloween 1938, even after several announcements that it was a dramatization, many of the audience thought the Martian invasion was real and panic ensued.  I have listened to the original recordings several times and while I find it hard to figure out why the broadcast was taken as reality, I have to admit the adaptation is drama at its best.

 

Any Star Trek fan knows how talented these actors are, and bringing them together in a sci-fi production is just perfect.  It’s amazing picking out the voices but what is more amazing is how they all meld together as a cast and bring this drama to life.  Each actor is definitely convincing in their role in this program and their camaraderie is apparent when the production absorbs you and you stop listening to them as characters from Star Trek, but rather characters that are involved in an invasion from Mars.

 

The production is presented as a radio performance with news breaks reporting first explosions on the planet mars then strange objects landing in the U.S.A.  With a roving report on the scene at an observatory and then later being vaporized (spoilers) at the landing site of one of the vessels, the action and actors present the story in little breaks between musical radio broadcasts.

 

Just over an hour of your time will be taken but that time is well spent listening to this classic performed by epic sci-fi actors.

 

 

Brecht_TheLifeofGalileo

“The Life of Galileo”
by Bertold Brecht
translated by David Hare
Multi-cast performance
Produced by L. A. Theatre Works
Approx 2 hours

I was getting ready to start a couple of audiobooks that were time consumers (any audiobook over 10 hours falls under that label for me). Not only were they long but they were both going to be espionage/government cover-up type stories and those require a huge commitment, especially since I was going to start them both at the same time. Before I tackled those two books, I wanted to listen to something that swallows you into the story, so I reached for one of my favorite go to publishers of audio, L.A. Theatre Works. I have a list of several go to(s) that I know will entertain me. What I like most about LATW is that they are plays that have been performed on stage and the producers take special care to record all the audio so that nothing is missed.

As a proud owner of a degree in theatre, I have always been aware that theatre is a visual medium, especially if you ask all my theatrical designer friends, but also being a proud owner of a Radio / TV broadcasting degree I know that the theatre of the mind power of radio is a strong power. L.A. Theatre Works takes the time to make sure their performances that are transferred over to an audiobook format take the visual artistry and make it work in an audio format. This is achieved with excellent sound effects, music and of course the great acting. When an actor is describing a prop that is seen by the audience, the production and performance create the image in the listener’s mind that ensures nothing is missed.

This production features a full-cast performance featuring: Neil Dickson, Roy Dotrice, Jeannie Elias, Jill Gascoine, Stacy Keach, Peter Lavin, Robert Machray, Christopher Neame, Moira Quirk, Darren Richardson, Alan Shearman, Simon Templeman, Joanne Whalley, Matthew Wolf

What attracted me to this particular production from the vaults of L.A. Theatre Works is that the part of Galileo is played by Stacy Keach. Every performance I’ve ever seen or heard with Mr. Keach, whether comedy or tragedy, he has owned that role. Not so long ago I listened to an LATW performance of “Death of a Salesmen” in which Keach played Willie Loman and that became my favorite performance of that play. I will always be a fan of his.

This play portrays Galileo Galilei as he shatters the world’s beliefs which have been dictated by the church for two millennia, in that we are not the center of the universe. When Galileo first lays his hands on a telescope and observes that the Earth is one of a few planets in the solar system that revolve around the sun and that the planets and stars are not held in suspension through crystal spheres, as believed by the church, he becomes a target for the Holy Inquisition. Committing such heresy Galileo is made to suffer torture, mentally and physically under the inquisitor. Galileo provides proof that only needs to be observed but the church stands firm.

In a play that shows how advancements in science are hindered by long held beliefs this production from L.A. Theatre Works, is one that should be heard by anyone seeking truth.

toothclaw“Tooth and Claw”
by Michael Hollinger
Multi-cast performance
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
Approx. 2 hours

When it comes to audio entertainment I have four sources that I can go to to make sure I can find a good story. Countless times I’ve started an audiobook and just couldn’t stay interested and each time that happens I get frustrated and have to go to one of those sources so that I can be reminded that there are good audiobooks available. L.A. Theatre Works is one of those sources.

L.A. Theatre Works produces live performances of plays that range from the classic to the modern and every time they feature a cast that is superb. With these live performances LATW also takes the time and effort to produce audio versions of these plays. The recordings are so expertly produced that while listening to the performance, as a reader, you are transported into the middle of the audience. All musical cues, sound effects and every dialogue are produced so that the attention to detail shows in that every single thing is heard clearly.

This time around I picked out the play “Tooth and Claw,” not because I was interested in the subject matter, but simply because I knew, no matter what, I would get a great story from L.A. Theatre Works and yes I was right. This production was yet another performance where the acting and production kept me interested and entertained.
“Tooth and Claw” is a contemporary drama based on actual events, biologist Schuyler Baines (portrayed by Cynthia Watros of “Lost”) arrives in the Galapagos Islands to run the Darwin Research Center. When she becomes aware of an exploding black market in sea cucumbers threatening to destroy the islands’ fragile ecosystem, Schuyler shuts the industry down, sparking a deadly, survival-of-the-fittest conflict with native fishermen.

“Tooth and Claw” becomes a compelling exploration of evolution, extinction and the ever-present nature of Darwin’s “struggle for life.” In the 1990s, the indigenous fisherman (pepineros) of the Galapagos Islands were pitted against environmentalists over the issue of harvesting sea cucumbers, both the primary source of income for the pepineros and an essential part of the food chain for sea tortoises. The fisherman subsequently revolted and slaughtered the endangered tortoises in protest. Even now, the conflict continues with the fisherman in search of shark fins and sea cucumbers for Asian markets, unmindful of conservation efforts. “Tooth and Claw” looks not just at the survival of the fittest, whether human, animal or flora, but at the less obvious clash between science and conservation.

A very intriguing story and an excellent performance both combine to make this a great way to spend two hours.

“Blue/Orange”
by Joe Penhall
starring Daniel Davis, Matt Letscher and Teagle F. Bougere
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
Approx 2 hours.

Once again I’m magically transported to the world of live theatre through the expert production and performance of L.A. Theatre Works. L.A. Theatre Works has a huge library of performances which have been turned into audio. These plays range from the classics to modern plays and all with excellent casts. The beauty of the whole thing is that LATW takes the time to make sure the audio recording is perfect thus making the listener feel as though they are right in the middle of the audience for every performance.

This time around I listened to the modern play “Blue/Orange” by Joe Penhall. This one intrigued me after I read the synopsis from L.A. Theatre Works; “Two psychiatrists—one new and inexperienced, the other his well-established mentor—battle over the diagnosis and treatment of Chris, a young black man who claims to be the son of African dictator Idi Amin.” I’m not sure what it was but it just sounded like it would be pretty thought-provoking, and it was.

A young black man is about to be discharged from psychiatric supervision in a London hospital. His man doctor wants to keep him in for further observation due to some of his responses, for example a bowl of oranges sits on the table, and when asked what color the patient replies, “Blue.” Something is just not right, the patient also claims to be the son of Idi Amin, remember him from the 70s? He’s the dictator that ate his enemies. The problem is that the Doctor’s supervisor, sees all of the patient’s responses as merely products of his culture and that not everything is to be taken literally. The supervisor also sees in this a chance for another paper to be written to further his own career. With his clinicians disagreeing on the seriousness of his condition, his release becomes complicated by issues of race, class, and the definition of sanity itself.

The play does a great job focusing on the complex issues of psychiatric treatment and throw into that the mix that the two white doctors are clueless when it comes to the black culture, it makes for a very intriguing story which goes back and forth as to who is really sane. The play does have some humorous moments which help the audience to digest some of the real hard-hitting issues covered.

“The Grapes of Wrath”
by John Steinbeck
Published by L.A. Theatre Works
Full cast performance starring: Emily Bergl, Michael Buie, Daniel Chacon, Maurice Chasse, Shannon Cochran, Trista Delamere, Jeffrey Donovan, Francis Guinan, Shirley, Charlie Matthes, Rod McLachlan, Robert Pescovitz, Joel Rafael, Stephen Ramsey, Nick Sadler, Andy Taylor,
Floyd Knowles, Todd Waring, Fredd Wayne, Michael Weston, and Kate Williamson
Live music performed by the Joel Rafael Band
Directed by Richard Masur
Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles in October, 2002.
Approx 2 hours

Once again I find myself listening to another fantastic production from L.A. Theatre Works, and once again the performance and production as a whole are enthralling that I can let the rest of the world go away and enjoy a classic story.  This time around I got the audiobook from the Audiobook Sync website (http://www.audiobooksync.com), from their SYNC YA summer audiobook program.  Every summer they offer a weekly coupling of Young Adult fiction.  The coupling exists between a new YA story and a classic story.  The week this audiobook was downloaded came with a book called the 11th Plague.  I’m saving that book for later.  I have already listened to several performances from L.A. Theatre Works, and knew that I would love this performance, So with a two hour plus car ride planned, I put this on my new mp3 player and hit the road.

The cast all performed the parts perfectly, throw that in with the sound effects and music, and once again I was placed in the center of the audience enjoying this great performance.  The interesting thing i found in this production was the music performed by the Joel Rafael Band.  The music had a lot of Woody Guthrie sound to it and at times the lead vocalist sounded a lot like Bob Dylan in his younger years.  All the music pushed the story along and made for great transitions between scenes.

I have always enjoyed every aspect of this story, from when I read the book (several times) to the movie starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.  I think mainly because it is a great description of a tough time in America and the tough stock of folks it took to keep moving on despite all the problems life throws.  Also I love the story because I was raised in Oklahoma and this story portrays Okies as a tough breed of folks.

During the Great Depression one of the many things that affected the country was the Dust Bowl that affected Oklahoma.  Severe drought and bad farming techniques created several dust storms that decimated the agriculture of Oklahoma.  The Okies were forced off of their farms and many headed West to California where there were jobs promised, via handbills, working in the fields and orchards.  As the story tells the problem was that many of the California farmers used false pretenses to attract the workers.  Where a farm would need 500 workers they would print 5,000 hand bills and maybe 1,000 workers would show up.  Creating double the people needed and many of the migrants were forced to live in poverty and even die in work camps.

This story tells of the Joad Family’s experiences as they made their way west and once arriving having to struggle for every scrap of food to feed the family, all the while Ma Joad trying to keep the family together. Eventually the workers get smart and band together to strike the poor working conditions and wages but are threatened with violence by the farmers and landowners of California.

A great historical epic from John Steinbeck that depicts the struggles of humanity and how working together we can survive.  This performance from L.A. Theatre Works is one of the best performances of “Grapes of Wrath” I have ever heard.  Definitely a must have for anyone appreciating classic literature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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