2008 Welles Award Audio Drama Winner CHATTERBOX AUDIO

greedFollowing on the heels of my 2008 Podcast Winners, I’ve decided to do the best Audio Dramas of 2008 a little differently. I have five companies that stood out to me, as the best producers of Audio Dramas in 2008, and instead of doing them in one post, I’ll break them up into five separate posts.

This being my first one.

So my first, much delayed, 2008 HEROIC TIMES Audio Drama winner is…. drumroll please… CHATTERBOX AUDIO for their 2008 Halloween Show.

Applause! Applause! Kudos to the current inner sanctum of Robert Arnold, Kyle Hatley, Dave Mickle and all of their cast and crew!

http://www.chatterboxtheater.org

I became aware of CHATTERBOX AUDIO early this year, pretty much on the strength of one production, their phenomenal SURFACING.

Kyle Hatley’s SURFACING Part I is one of the strongest hours of audio drama I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a lot. It is staggering, wrenching, and stunning work! I highly recommend going to their site and listening to it, you will not be disappointed. It does tend to want to go overboard and be too much, too loud, too annoying, too abrasive, too everything…. but it manages to straddle that difficult line. Just barely though, because a lot of the characters push hard that annoying talkshow/overblown persona. Particularly the characters of Charlie, Barclay Roberts and Carolyn (played by Patrick Dulaney, Anthony Merchant and Ashlee Lepine) are just so… abrasive, and annoying at points it nearly takes me out of the program.

I mean I get the point that the show is about people at their worst, but when all the characters are utter aholes, it makes it difficult to care or invest about any of them. Don’t get me wrong, all of the actors give phenomenal performances, it’s just if you have a story where you dislike the characters, when you put them in jeopardy the audience really doesn’t care about their jeopardy. Particularly evident with the character of Barclay Roberts.

The character is just utterly arrogant, pompous, and unlikeable. The actor who plays Barclay, Anthony Merchant has a FANTASTIC voice and gives a great performance. Perhaps too good, because the character is written as this complete jerk. So much of an arrogant jerk, that I actively dislike the character. Jess Akin as Harold and Julane Havens as Amelia are the only characters that I find are in any way likable.

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But these hiccups are minimal, and the show doesn’t get bogged down on the hyperbole of the characters, and keeps briskly moving toward its conclusion. The measure of a great program is after you get done listening, you listen to it again immediately. I did that with this program. An early contender for best Audio Drama of 2009. That said I have to say Part II, unfortunately doesn’t live up to Part I. It falls on the wrong side of that line between passionate presentation and annoying sensationalism, and largely because of an extended scene with the aforementioned character of Barclay. The story gets bogged down in extremism, and overblown scenes, when less in this case would have definitely been more. The whole scene I’m talking about would have been much better, if dialed back a few notches, and if the ahole meter for everyone, particularly Barclay, was dialed back a notch.

Possible spoilers.

It’s an extreme scene that I won’t elaborate on except to say, if I’m in that position you are going to try a little harder to move that rock, before you jump to another, extreme and sadistic solution. You’re going to try a LOT fing harder! Seriously you ever heard of a lever? or mother’s lifting cars off their kids? I mean, goshdarn it you’re going to spend a good amount of time trying before you cavalierly and seemingly arrogantly jump to the most insane solution possible. The character of Barclay, comes off as a sadistic bastard in that scene, and is a character that you hope for a truck to fall on, or for lightning to hit and kill. Again, I think the actor performs the part great, fantastic voice, I just think it is a too abrasively written part.

Anyhow suffice to say didn’t like the 2nd SURFACING episode at all.

But that episode acknowledged, the first episode still stands as a phenomenal hour of audio drama, and is worth your time.

As far as their other productions another fantastic one is their 2007 production of THE YELLOW WALLPAPER. It’s brilliantly performed by the lead actress, Jane Kilgore. Endlessly listen-able. Also THE CHILDREN episode from their 2008 Halloween show is very good. Infact when you take in the fact that the show was done LIVE, all of the six performances are frigging impressive.

So while the BBC gets all the press for Audio Dramas, CHATTERBOX AUDIO, a Memphis, Tennessee based outfit, is definitely a company to watch. Swing over say hi, and tell them HT sent ya! 🙂 .

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