Review of Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman

February 28, 2005
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audio Drama - Neil GaimanTwo Plays For Voices
By Neil Gaiman; Performed by two Full Casts
2 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio / Seeing Ear Theater
Published: 2002
ISBN: 0060012560
Themes: / Fantasy / Angels / Vampires / Fairy Tales /

Stories included:
Snow Glass Apples
Once upon a time there lived a young princess with skin as white as snow, with hair as black as coal, with lips as red as blood. Most people think they know what happens to this young unfortunate girl. Most people are wrong. Tony-award winning actress Bebe Neuwirth stars as a wise Queen who wants nothing more than to reign over her kingdom peacefully but is forced to match wits with an inhuman child who has an unnatural taste for blood.

Full Cast List:
Bebe Neuwirth as the Queen ; Martin Carey as the Huntsman; Mark Evans as the Prince; Merwin Goldsmith as the Lord of the Fair; J.R. Horne as the Archbishop & Friar; Alissa Hunnicutt as the Maidservant; Randy Maggiore as a Soldier; Kate Simses as the Princess; Nick Wyman as the King

Murder Mysteries
In this mystery noir set in heaven’s City of Angels before the fall, the first crime has been committed. It is an awful one. While the angelic hosts labor to create the world and its workings, one of their number is mysteriously slain by one of their own. Raguel, Angel of Vengeance, is mandated by Lucifer to discover both motive and murderer in this holy dominion that had so recently known no sin. Golden Globe award winning Brian Dennehy stars as Vengeance.

Full Cast List:
Brian Dennehy as Raguel ; Anne Bobby as Tink’s Friend; Christopher Burns as Saraquael ; Thom Christopher as Lucifer ; Ed Dennehy as Zephkiel ; Michael Emerson as Narrator ; Traci Godfrey as Tinkerbell Richmond ; Evan Pappas as Phanuel

I find audio dramatizations to be generally inferior to straight unabridged readings. There are certainly exceptions; it is just my personal general experience. But every once in a while an exception is so forcefully good, so sweet and so right, it makes me question my general preference in total. And no audio drama thus far has shaken this conviction better than these two “plays for voices”.

I of course heard them both back when they first turned up on the Seeing Ear Theater website, and I was blown away then. I told everyone to go check it out, and I still send people to the site every now and then, but after hearing them on crystal clear CD I’ve decided that even though the website is free, the CD set is the preferred way to listen. The sound is exquisite, the packaging elegantly designed, and when they do decide to remove the wonderful collection of audio dramatizations that makes up the Seeing Ear Theater website collection I’d be kicking myself for not owning a hard copy of both of these amazing dramatizations. I should also note that like much of Neil Gaiman’s adult fantasy, both of these stories feature explicit sexual scenes.

So what makes this collection so great? Well, Gaiman’s unique storytelling gift has something to do with it – probably most to do with it if truth be told. But where Gaiman’s writing leaves off the adaptors pick up with the same skill level – and fail to spoil it.

My main complaint with audio dramatizations in general is that they tend to be “improvements” of the text rather than adaptations. Countless stories have been ruined by incautious adaptors who failed to respect, and in many cases even understand, the story they are adapting. This is most emphatically not the case with these two dramas. The cast and crew of both have achieved that same level of artisanship as Neil Gaiman himself. The casting is brilliant! Bebe Neuwirth, who most people would recognize from her film and television work, is a stage trained actress with two Tony awards to her credit. I can think of no one better than she for the role of the unfairly maligned queen in Snow Glass Apples. In Murder Mysteries, a bit more of an ensemble piece, two actors stand out as achieving similar greatness. Brian Dennehy in the lead role, and Michael Emmerson as the British accented narrator. But in lauding all three of these perfectly cast actors I must be careful to note that several uniformly talented players in their own right support them. Their parts may be small but they do them exceedingly well.

Much praise also must be given to sound designer John Colluci, who had a hand in nearly every Seeing Ear Theater production. The music, foley work and stereo effects are perfect. And of course the producer and director of both these dramatizations, Brian Smith deserves the highest praise. Without him neither would have been possible. Everything has come together in both these productions. There was not one small disappointment, not a single minor flaw, not one awkward moment. Two Plays For Voices is flawless, flawless, flawless.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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