Thursday, April 22, 2010

Curious Echo Radio Theater

Curious Echo Radio Theater is an audio production company created in 2002 by Louis Gutierrez and Sharon Moskowitz after listening to a live performance of ARTC. Their only available offering I can find is the completed series of "Beware the Moon Wraith- The Orb of Phoebe" which runs in about 10 minute installments to a total of ten episodes. The Moon Wraith is written in the old radio drama style of mysterious powerful detective in the same vein as The Shadow and the modern day Red Panda. Episodes are family friendly with scenes of action and mild violence, but contain mystical and spiritual themes including the dead walking the night and possession. Probably operating as an AD-PG in the Audio Drama Rating System.

Website
The Curious Echo website is very basic. It operates as a fairly boring wordpress format with no pictures. It is not very well maintained as the last post on the main page is December 31st, 2008.
The colors are an uninspiring off-white and computer blue with a header that is kind of a maroon-grey block. There are categories and links down the left-hand side to check out friends, other Audio Drama Companies, and ways to find them on various different websites.
The About section has a few details on the origin of the group which is nice, but it doesn't mention anyone beyond the founding two members. There is a spot for new members to Get Involved but if I were an actor I would be a little reluctant. There's no mention of who plays what characters anywhere on the website! Actors need name recognition. They need a headshot to connect with the name so people know what they look like and where else they can be found. Please put some information about your actors in. They deserve it! Ditto for the production staff. Writers? Editors? Directors? None can be found.
There's a tantalizing mention of "Elizabethan Radio" but no description of what it is nor episode to listen. The last performance seems to have been 2004 at Necronomicon.
There's some good information in here, but the site needs a thorough reboot.
Rating: 1/5

Audio Drama Type- OTR Recreation
While poking fun at the medium at times, Curious Echo continues with a fairly loyal recreation of the Old Time Radio standard mystery adventure story. The music fits excellently with the age. The story is written in the same "exciting chapter" style and is left at a cliffhanger. The characters are stock and familiar, and the villains are appropriately over the top in their villainy.

Acting- Amateur
The acting in the "Moon Wraith" series is surprisingly good. Forgive my misspellings as I can't find either the names of the characters or actors. Virgil Cain played by Sam Atwell does a passing job, but doesn't have that resounding power one is used to with such a roll. He seems to still be feeling out the character. Sandra Ashton, his love interest and cohort is played by Peggy West who sounds too old for the typical younger woman role that provides. Similarly the "plucky newsboy" Crabby Jones played by Dustin Hearn does not sound anything like a young boy.
Ed Bell as the narrator hits all the marks of a good Old Time Radio announcer of such shows and feels the most comfortable on the audio stage. Sharon Moscowitz plays the role of Detective Kendall handily though with a rich believable presence, and Susie Lee puts on a sparkling performance as Kay Trescott, especially near the end.
The acting is certainly better than many audio drama shows out there, but the main roles still feel like they are trying to get a strong handle on their characters. The direction is solid, and there's an absolute understanding of the age. My thought is that if there is another series of "The Moon Wraith" the actors will feel more comfortable in their roles.
Rating: 4/5

Production: Measured
I'm very impressed with the work on the production. Dave Murphy handled the editing and Andrew Davis was one of the folks involved in sound effects. Keeping the sounds conservative, the Moon Wraith produces a soundscape that you'd hear in an old time radio show. Only what is needed to tell the story. Vocal effects are used for the "other worldly" elements of characters who speak as apparitions of some sort, and the music is spot on. This series is a great example of how good editing can raise a production's quality even more.
Rating: 5/5

Writing
The writing by Louis Gutierrez is tight and well-paced. He understands the old-style format in which a lot of dialog keeps the story moving and develops the romantic interest between the main characters while never failing to end off on a high-point at the end of each episode. Without giving away the story, I like that he also uses the orb to change the nature of the Moon Wraith for further adventures. One gets the feeling that we're at the beginning of the evolution of this hero as opposed to showing up in the middle as with most heroes in this genre. The characters are all used well, and the story works especially well in the audio format.
If there is one complaint that I have it is this. Most of the comedic quips fall flat. I tried to understand why, and realized that the Moon Wraith has the same problem that Red Panda had. It is initially a parody of a genre wanting to be taken seriously on it's own. Gregg Taylor reinvented the Red Panda and tossed his first series into an "alternate universe" where Moon Wraith continues with serious adventuring only to have the forward momentum nearly drop dead when a character makes an out of place pun or a gag during an intense moment.
Parody humour no matter its original intent is never really flattering. It tends to inflate and remove the fourth wall for the listening audience and remove all suspension of disbelief.
So my advice to Mr. Gutierrez is to either stop writing compelling and interesting adventure plots and embrace the silliness completely as is done by "The Voice" in Two Minute Danger Theater or drop the humour completely unless it is in character and appropriate for the story.
Rating: 4/5

Additional Notes
Words can not express how frustrated I was to discover the Moon Wraith is a couple of years old and only ten episodes long. Certain shows require a long term commitment. As disappointed as I am in the end of Two Minute Danger Theater, there are something in the order of 200 episodes. "The Orbe of Phoebe" is ten episodes of something less than ten minutes in length. I cannot believe that such a compelling story is the only one Mr. Gutierrez's pen has ink for. So it is my personal opinion that the Moon Wraith has to stop hiding in the shadows and take on the Red Panda as a serious regular audio drama hero. I know there would be a large following if that were to happen.

Over All
I'm not sure if Curious Echo Radio Theater has any more cards in their deck but "The Moon Wraith" is the kind of OTR recreation most of us fans of the old time style love, and is better written than most. It has excitement, an interesting concept in the MW character, and possibilities for more in the future. If you love the heroes of old, you should really give this short serial adventure a try.
Rating: 4/5

5 comments:

  1. For my own personal taste,I disagree with your asking for headshots of the actors. Surely when listening to an audio play, we are all going to have our own idea of what a character looks like.
    If we see what the actor looks like, that can only spoil it.

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  2. Wow, I just saw this...I am the composer of the music in Beware the Moon Wraith. Thank you very much for your kind comments on the music! (This was my first soundtrack.) And rest assured that Curious Echo is working on other projects!

    Thank you,
    Rob Barfield

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  3. My thanks RobB. I'm sure many other companies would be interested in your work too if you'd like to work with more teams.
    In the meantime, I look forward to more Curious Echo Radio Drama.
    Warmly,
    ~J. Snowe

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  4. Irish.
    I can understand that.
    However, speaking only for myself, I'd like to see who is performing after the show. The visual input gives a face to the name and makes it much easier for me to connect with them in future projects as many actors actually work in multiple companies.
    But that is a preference, and not an actual criticism.
    Warmly,
    ~J. Snowe

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  5. It took a while, but after a three-year hiatus, we're back! Web design, admittedly, still needs a reboot, but we figured doing what we do--recording exciting, sometimes silly, audio adventures--was the higher priority. Our latest is more squarely on the silly side. Come have a listen to Frank Gadsden: Personal Injury Lawyer of the Future!

    http://www.curiousecho.org/wordpress/2011/11/13/frank-gadsden-personal-injury-lawyer-of-the-future-time-wounds-all-heels

    ReplyDelete