Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Two Minute Danger Theater

Two-Minute Danger Theater comes from Twisted Mojo productions and is hosted and distributed through Outcast Multimedia. TMDT is a series of two minute long comedy adventures featuring one of three possible shows:
Blake Diamond- the Jungle Adventurer who is almost never in the jungle.

Blast Off Patrol- Starring Captain Ranger and Cadet Nancy in the far-flung future of 1999.
The Voice- with the newspaper man who learned how to throw his Voice and scare criminals with his ability.


Each show has some adult themes but are mostly designed as safe enough to play for all ages as the flavor is set as tight parodies of 1940's melodramatic adventure serials although there is a rather erotic exchange in one of the "Blast Off" episodes so pre-listen to episodes before sharing with kids or at a work environment. The series completed last year in July and has no plans to return.

 Website
The website for Danger Theater is nearly vacant. It is more of an offshoot of Twisted Mojo productions. While there are links for the podcast and itunes, there is little else but the shows themselves to be found. It is true at least that a small link takes you to a listing of the cast and about the series in which the site describes Danger Theater as "what old-time radio might have sounded like had modern-day pharmaceutical drugs been available."
The white text on blue background while easy to read has very little to delight the eye. There's some nice little old style pictures of all three shows and the Two Minute Danger Theater title graphic, but the page looks very plain.
Rating: 1.5/5

Theater Type: OTR Knock-off
Danger Theater successfully uses the Old Time Radio style by presenting iconic genre styles of the fortune hunter, pulp futuristic rocket jockey, and Shadow-esque super hero. The characters are broadly drawn. The casts are small. The plots are straight forward. The sound effects sparse and could be for the most part performed live were it an old time radio show. The dialogue is fast paced. Only the sharply placed music and the satirical wit puts the show as a modern offering.

Acting Types- Professional
A perusal of the cast list shows the actors have many more credits to their names and while mostly considered in productions that may not be Hollywood, the still present strong voices in both character, delivery, and variety.
Curtis Eames is the anchor on which all other characters raise their skills towards. Playing so many iconic characters from "The Voice", to Commander Ranger, the villaini Doctor Lambert and Prince Marcada as well as the announcer and others. Eames' machine gun delivery and perfect timing are the reason for the humor coming off as pitch-perfect. As hilarious the writing is, without the proper pacing and characterization even the best gags would come off as flat. Eames hits every note. Similarly Ryan Thomas Johnson acts as the perfect comedic partner as Cadet Nancy in Blast Off Patrol. He's less on with his characterization of Blake Diamond, but only slightly when compared to Eames' razer abilities. Tori McPetrie stands up well against Eames as Sarah in "The Voice" as playing the "straight man" in that show is always harder than the wacky detective. She also does a superb job as Lt. Dale, the potential although often mismatched love hopeful for Commander Ranger in Blast Off Patrol. McPetrie keeps the pace up to both press Eames' characters and challenge his chops. But the voice of Queen Zantabia played by Dawn Westlake captivated my ear as the best iconic villainess. Slowing her responses slightly and including an accent to differentiate herself, Westlake does a marvelous job in Blast Off Patrol. Perhaps the weakest of the group is George Barker Barrett III with his various minor characters. But describing his portrayals as "weaker" is akin to looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame and picking "the poorer players". His acting only comes off as slightly flatter when compared with the other fellows. He does much better than many actors in modern audio drama today, and I would love to hear his take in a lead role.
While it is sad to note that Danger Theater no longer exists, considering the caliber of the acting, it's understandable that the actors have moved on to other projects.
Rating: 5+/5

Production Type: Minimalists
In favor of the Old-Time Radio feel, MJ Butler has kept the production minimalist. Keeping to sound effects that identify setting, dramatic tension, and comedic effect, Butler does away with all extraineous sounds. The only time you will hear footsteps in the show is if they add to the story or comedy. Instead, Butler uses music stings, themes, and voice effects with great impact. The stings cut the edges of the scenes, bend time, and announce the tenor of the genre. Utilizing music in the place of massive sound effects speed the pace of the script to a raucus measure even faster than the delivery of the actors' words.
Butler knows exactly how to challenge the OTR show format through the honesty of the direction of the actors and the purity of the production.
Rating: 5+/5

Writing
If there is one thing that could be said sparkles above all things- above the sharp witted acting, above the tightly structured production values, above the perfect musical stings and themes, it is the power of the scripts. Butler pokes fun at the square-jawed hero stereotype and continues the depictions with powerful jabs at the one-dimensional villains from the genres. He understands very accurately what draws in listeners, knows how to create fast-pitched scenes that fire the listener through the plot at super-sonic speeds without feeling rished and leaves each episode at a climax, albeit an always highly contrived climax (but that is part of the humour). Butler's sense of humor is spot on, and works effortlessly from the page through actors lips and into the final production. While some episodes are funnier than others, taken as whole each series will never cease to provide laughter. Butler uses prejudices of the past as grand grist for his pen. Stereotypes of the inequality of women, or the innocence of youth. In the series of "The Voice" called "The Evil Weed", Butler pokes fun at 1950 beliefs about how weed would corrupt and destroy society all while drinking liquor and smoking good "wholesome" tobacco cigarettes. Any better scripts for these series, I could not imagine. It is a rare show that I can not point to changes I would make.
Rating: 5+/5

Additional Notes
Two minutes. It is startling to see how much Danger Theater packs in a two minute show. Each episode feels like a pregnant idea that many writers could not fulfill in 30 minutes let alone ten. Danger Theater is the highest watermark when it comes to a standard for conservation of resources. One can only imagine the amount of drafts Mr. Butler works through to keep boiling down and boiling down each episode so that credits, introductions and music are all included in the script. It is mind boggling how Butler and his team has done it. I've heard shortened scripts that never quite gain this level of prominance. My critical hat off to their skills.

Over All
Two Minute Danger Theater has but one fatal flaw that I can see. It is that the series ended. While listening to so many audio dramas, very seldomly do I find myself listening without end to episode after episode after episode, but with Danger Theater I listened almost entirely in one "sitting". I was involved utterly from the first episode to the last. This is simply the best series I've ever found in short form audio drama.
Please return.
Rating: 5+/5

4 comments:

  1. You know...I never did check this out due to the too brief "2 minute" limitation in my head....
    But perhaps sometimes less is more..eh?
    I'll check it out now on your recommendation...

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  2. Hello James. Thanks for the review of TMDT! My name is Rich Sigfrit and I host the site for the show. I did want to clarify one point in your review. The show is an original Twisted Mojo production. My company, Outcast Multimedia, only distributes the show online. As much as I'd love to take credit for the amazing work, I can't. I only slapped together a bare bones website (with plans to redesign) and promoted it to the podosphere. So all accolades goes to Twisted Mojo and MJ Butler for it's amazing production.

    Thank you again for the review. Those high marks brought a smile to my face, and to the faces of those who worked on the show.

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  3. Red willie you should really check it out. It's an excellent production
    ~Warmly
    J. Snowe

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  4. Hi Mr. Sigfrit,
    Thanks for the clarification about Danger Theater. I will update that when I get a chance.
    Appreciate the kind words. I love this series. Please pass it on to Mr. Butler and the rest.
    Warmly,
    ~J. Snowe

    ReplyDelete