These are not mere readings. Rather, they are full performances using all the resources of audio to full advantage. Just as stage plays are "opened up" when adapted to film, so these selections create greater intimacy. "Staginess" is avoided, lively theatrics enhanced, while the substance of the works remains intact. For instance, in Arms and the Man, audio makes possible the judicious integration of the author's witty scene settings, written for the published version of the play, with the play itself. This is the play that established Shaw's reputation as one of the greatest wits of the London drama scene.
Music accounts for another noteworthy aspect of these productions. The Imaginary Invalid employs the score that Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed for Moliere's own premiere. It is conducted by Steven Ovitsky, artistic director of the Milwaukee Symphony.
The Tempest, composed by Shakespeare as a multi-sensory theater experience, features music on Elizabethan instruments still extant from Shakespeare's own production, resulting in lyrical textual passages, overflowing with exotic images, tantalizing sounds, and a palpable lushness.
(P)2002 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Yuri Rasovsky, who wrote and produced this superior experience, must be a genius." (AudioFile)
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"Badly Done Plays"
Please save your money and pass on this collection of plays. None are done very well and the production of Medea is particularly bad. When the director chooses to set the Chorus to music, he/she must emphasize diction and musical quality. Sadly, the director failed on both counts. The chanting is incomprehensible and the music is cheesy. It's hard to wreck Medea but the director succeeded admirably.
As to the rest: The Ibsen is weak and the Shaw is boring. The productions were produced in 1985. Perhaps 20 years of a renewed interest in audio literature require more sophisticated productions or, perhaps, these productions, produced under the auspices of the Hollywood Theater of the Ear, are simply the product of a consistently bad director.
"Well Done Plays"
I thought these plays were well done and entertaining. The production quality seemed fine to me. I especially enjoyed Medea, the Tempest, and Camille. The other ones were hard for me to get into, but that's just personal taste. If you want to be entertained and enjoy several classic plays, then this is a good deal for the price.
"Not Great Audible Theater"
Although this is not a bad recording of several good plays, it was far from one of my favorite compilations. From the publisher’s summary they were attempting to produce “lively theatrics enhanced” performances. Hum. For me most of these plays seemed significantly overdone. My favorite of these plays was An Enemy of the People which was pretty good. Still overacted, this play survived the overacting pretty well. Medea was my least favorite. It seemed wildly over acted and did not resonate emotionally at all. The Tempest and Camille were OK, but far from stellar. I found The Imaginary Invalid and Uncle Vanya pretty boring. I had just heard Arms and the Man from the LA Theater Works (LATW) Shaw Collection, and this version blanched in comparison. It did not even seem like the same play. The LATW version was snappy, lively, and witty. This version fell completely flat.
Great slice of drama, presented chronologically and in well-executed dramatizations. F. Murray Abraham is not to be missed.
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