Tag Archive: latw


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

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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.

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“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.”

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