Tag Archive: william shakespeare


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

Advertisements

“Shadow of Night” (book 2 of “The All Souls Trilogy”)
by Deborah Harkness
read by Jennifer Ikeda
Published by Penguin Audio
Approx 24.5 hours

I am really getting tired of Supernatural Romantic books. I’m a strong believer in the idea that vampires should be staked not taken to bed. I can only blame Anne Rice and the Vampire Lestat for starting this trend. So, you may ask yourself, “Why did
Gil T. listen to this Audiobook?” Well, I really don’t know what started me on the book, other than I’m a sucker for supernatural tales and I keep hoping someone gets back to the killing of these evil beasts. While the vampires were not staked and the premise of this story is the marriage of a vampire to a witch, I gave it a chance. As it turned out, I was mildly pleased. The story had only a touch of those Supernatural Romance novels, but better yet this book had more of a science-fiction time-travelling tale, and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for time-travel.

I picked up this book not knowing it was the second book in the trilogy, and when I first started listening, I realized I was missing something, so I looked up the information on the author and found I missed the first book. As I continued to listen I found that the author wrote into the story some of the missing info I would have obtained from the first book, within the first hour or so of listening. This makes this pretty much a stand-alone novel, but I think, out of curiosity, I’ll go back and find the first book.

From what I can gather, the first book introduced Diana Bishop, an Oxford scholar and witch who is not in control of her powers, and vampire Matthew DuClairmont. Who according to this book is from a large influential “family” of vampires. Diana finds an alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782. When she discovers the book she and Matthew come under attack from a group of witches that want the book for their own uses. Diana is able to “timewalk” her and Matthew to a time in Matthews past in order to find the book before it is enchanted and maybe find another witch to teach Diana how to better use her powers.

Diana “timewalks” them back to the 16th century when Matthew (remember he is a very old vampire) had some dark secrets. He is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, seems to be in charge of destroying witches to some extent, and is a member of the legendary “School of Night.” The School of Night is pretty much a who’s who of the 1590s featuring in its membership, Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlow, William Shakespeare, George Chapman and Thomas Herriot. In this book Harkness allows her characters to interact with these folks and others like Henry Percy and the Queen herself. At times the time-travellers seem to influence the historical significance of these people. Harkness also plays on the ideas that Christopher Marlow was a demon, and even the poet Matthew Roydon is a vampire, in fact Matthew DuClairmont is Roydon. It makes for a fun twist in the story.

So this is what kept my interest; Harkness was able to weave her story into the history facts and make this fiction a bit more intriguing. So with the rest of the story the two time-walkers visit Matthew’s father, the Emperor Rudolf in Prague, and a few other historical figures in order to track down Ashmole 782. The story is not a fast paced action story but rather one that is rather like a Jane Austen novel set in the 16th century, with a bit of vampire and witch lore sprinkled in. There are no real vampire battles nor real witchcraft but the story does remain a bit intriguing in what seems like a Dan Brown mystery written by Jane Austen.

The reader, Jennifer Ikeda, did a super job of reading this book and captured the voice of Diana perfectly. She was also able to do the vocal change-ups that allowed her to voice the other characters in their own voices. As a listener I definitely knew when which character was speaking when, thanks to her vocal changes in the reading of this book.

Slow moving but intriguing, I will be checking out the other books in the series now that this one has my curiosity up.

“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.

%d bloggers like this: