Review of Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman

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

The CBC Radio One program Sunday Showcase will be …

SFFaudio News

Science Fiction Radio Drama - CBC Radio OneThe CBC Radio One program Sunday Showcase will be broadcasting the L.A. Theater works radio dramatization of Orson Welles’ version of H.G Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds on Sunday April 17 2005 at 10:00 p.m.. It will then be rebroadcast the next night on CBC Radio Two at 9:00 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC Radio Two. Listeners outside of Canada can tune in via the RealAudio broadcasts. This was released as an audiobook as well back in 1997 (ISBN: 0807235628).

The Official Sunday Showcase announcement reads:
“From Welles’ original script, the quantum leap of the end of the world! This new LA Theatreworks production stars Star Trek actors Leonard Nimoy, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner. The War of the Worlds was produced in the USA by Susan Albert Lowenberg for LA Theatre Works.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Robert J. Sawyer dropped a few more hints about th…

SFFaudio News

Science Fiction Audio Drama - CBC EmanationsRobert J. Sawyer dropped a few more hints about the new CBC Radio One Science Fiction anothology radio drama series Emanations:

“Michael Lennick and I had a meeting at the CBC Broadcasting Centre to go over the second draft of our SF radio-drama pilot with the people Michael likes to refer to as “the boys downtown.” The script will be produced on March 17; our series is an anthology of standalone SF radio dramas with the overall title Emanations. The pilot script, “Birth,” deals with the accidental emergence of sentience among exploratory robots on Mars.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

An update to our December 2004 announcement. CITY…

SFFaudio News

Science Fiction Audio - JMSAn update to our December 2004 announcement. CITY OF DREAMS creator and writing-machine J. Michael Straczynski has confirmed he’ll be in Toronto this month (Feb. 2005) co-directing “The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al” for eventual broadcast on CBC Radio One. Our Torontonian readers are asked to be on the lookout for this man:

He will likely be armed with either a typwriter, computer keyboard or possibly a pen and paper and should be considered a very prolific Science Fiction author. If you spot him, be courteous, polite and send us a photo!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Exciting post-apocalyptic news everyone. This one …

SFFaudio Online Audio

Exciting post-apocalyptic news everyone. This one sounds like it’ll be a real winner!

CBC Radio One is launching a brand new four-part limited comedy series to begin airing this Saturday, February 5th, 2005. Entitled STEVE, THE FIRST, written by and starring Matt Watts, the program boasts an exceptional cast including actor, writer and director Don McKellar of films as eXistenZ and Last Night. And Kids In The Hall alumnus Mark McKinney. Writer Matt Watts (The Newsroom) attributes his inspiration for writing the show to a recent viewing of The Omega Man. Matt says he thought that it’d be “…funny if someone had to save the world after an apocalypse, despite being rather lazy and useless”. Matt says he “Came up with the character Steve, who’s pretty useless, like me. Sad, but true.”

Starring:

Matt Watts as “Steve the First”

Mark McKinney as “Phil Green”

Don McKellar as “Tim the Melty”

PART I – (Airing February 5th 2005)

Steve wakes up to realize he’s slept through the apocalypse! Listeners follow him through a bizarre series of events as he discovers that human survivors are melting to death (melties) and dogs are randomly exploding. He meets Colleen, who takes him into her home after she realizes he may hold the cure to the strange melting disease. Phil Green, the evil mayoral candidate, continues to work on his post-nuclear campaign.

PART II – (Airing February 12th 2005)

Steve treks across the forbidden zone in search of water, while Colleen discovers Steve’s cure actually works and she has recovered! Hundreds of melties begin to arrive at Colleen’s house in search of Steve’s cure, while the evil Phil Green works toward capturing Colleen’s heart.

PART III – (Airing February 19th 2005)

After successfully curing several melties, Steve is kidnapped by Phil Green, who wants the cure for himself. Colleen, with the help of a telepathic dog, treks across the nuclear wasteland to rescue Steve.

PART IV – (Airing February 26th 2005)

Phil Green and Steve have a public debate to see who’s more qualified to lead the citizens of post-nuclear Toronto to safety. When things don’t go to Phil’s liking, he reveals his deadly plan. (Yes, it involves a bomb!)

If any of these above situations sound familiar to you, chances are you can relate to the life of STEVE, THE FIRST. He may sound like a typical hero, but in reality he’s a lazy, incompetent whiner, who through strange circumstances happens to be the saviour of humankind. Tune in as the fate of the world unfolds beginning Saturday, February 5th 2005 at 11:30 am.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Its a good news bad news kind of week, but there’s…

SFFaudio News

Its a good news bad news kind of week, but there’s more good news today. CBC Radio One will be featuring two weeks of short speculative fiction in Spring 2005 on the program called BETWEEN THE COVERS, the series will include fiction by Ashok Mathur, Dan Rubin, Larissa Lai, Wilma Kenny and others! Nalo Hopkinson will be the presenter and one of her stories will be on the roster! The only title that we’re sure is going to be read is “Strange Harvest” by Edward Willett.

Posted by Jesse Willis