Monday, August 6, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: "Jane Grey, Action Mathematician" (Action Science Theatre)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

I stumbled across this show thanks to this tweet by @ThListeningPost at the beginning of last month:

After taking a preview listen, I thought, "Hey! Let's review this puppy!" It's not quite science fiction, but there's math jokes involved so...semi-geeky humor. Close enough.

So here we go...

Action Science Theatre LogoSynopsis: Join Jane Grey, and her erstwhile sidekick, Jasper, as they try to ensure Jane submits her PhD whilst being pursued by murderous cultists!

Well done, Action Science Theatre. Well done.

A well-written audio drama with solid dialogue, brainy humor, and fairly decent performances by the cast.

I especially enjoyed Dan Bond as Jasper. Upbeat and bubbly, with good comic timing for most of the episode.

Sreya Rao made a great Jane Grey although, when the episode first started off, she sounded a little stiff. I wondered if I was going to make it through even the first minute or so of the opening. Luckily, Rao pulled through and Jane came wonderfully alive. Good catch there, ma'am.

But several seconds later, she dropped back in intensity for no reason that I could see. And she kept see-sawing between high and low energy in her performance throughout the episode.

Rhona Wells as the mysterious Leader of the baddies was both imperious and oddly restrained. When Jane unleashes her coup de grĂ¢ce, the Leader's "How dare you...!" sounds sadly held back.

And I have to say that, as Dodgson, Matt Kirk seemed to be channeling Terry Jones of Monty Python, which came off wonderfully.

Now the nits to be picked...

Dialogue timing was a concern here, particularly in the patter between Jane and Jasper. I felt there was far too much pausing between lines and the illusion of a "real conversation"--rather than two people reading lines--is lost. Yes, it's hard to talk on top of another actor's line when you're recording remotely, which I'm assuming was the case here. (If I'm wrong, please let me know). But that should be something easily fixed during post-production.

There were also a number of spots that could've have better sound effects cues and additional writing for clarity. For instance, in the opening scene, Jane and Jasper are in mid-conversation when there's a knock at the door. It opens and a man speaks a line. Then the man hands Jane a piece of paper. And then we learn there's actually two others with him.

But at no point do we hear footsteps of the man entering the room. He needs to in order to hand the paper to Jane who, according to earlier in the scene, is in the room. We also do not hear the footsteps of the other men. And when Jane leaves through the door, we hear the door open and close, but not her footsteps leaving.

It might be a tiny detail, but it's those tiny details that paint a sound picture for the listener and without them, the listener can get a little confused and be kicked out of the story.

In the scene immediately following, Jane goes to trade angry words with Dodgson. That scene begins with footsteps then a door knock. Dodgson says "Come in." The door opens and Dodgson greets Jane with "Ah, Miss Grey. I'm very busy. I can't really--" At which point Jane interrupts him with "What the hell...?" and the line continues.

Problem.

If Jane is angry and wants answers, why aren't the footsteps hurried? And why is the knock on the door not very urgent? Then when she enters and Dodgson greets her, why does she wait before demanding answers? Her line "What the hell...?" should've come in right as she opened the door.

And once again, there are no footsteps to indicate she entered Dodgson's office.

There was also a lack of ambient sounds to establish scene and paint a picture of place. In one scene, Jane knocks on someone's front door. We "see" the scene from inside the house but when the door opens, we don't hear the noise of the city outside. In another scene, Jasper meets up with Jane at a library. But there's no sound of shuffling feet from browsing patrons or the faint thud of a book being closed prior to dialogue.

Now now--all these are minor and can be easily fixed in post-production.

That said, I am happily impressed by this freshman effort and expect even better work with their next outing.

Go check out Jane Grey here and stay tuned for more from Action Science Theatre.

I know I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Because hey--science humor.

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