Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Fringe 2018 - Review - The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society vs. The Nazis - 5 Stars

tweet review - #mnfringe show 12 - The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society vs. The Nazis - 2 classic radio programs with Nazi villains being vanquished, lovingly recreated down to the performance style and sound FX; couldn't ask for a more fun time more perfectly executed - 5 stars

The thing I love most about The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society vs. The Nazis is that the four cast member/creators - Tim Uren, Joshua English Scrimshaw, Eric Webster, and Shanan Custer - all really love this format.  You can tell they relish recreating these old radio shows from the past as authentically as humanly possible - right down to the sound effects and the acting style.  Tim, Joshua and Eric also host the podcast version of this concept (launched in 2016), from whence the Fringe shows last year and this year owe their genesis. 

“But, you’re dead, sir!”
“Really?  Am I?  Well, isn’t this an abrupt way of breaking the news to me?”

The fun bonus to staging these old scripts as a Fringe show - and the biggest kick in the show itself - is that the audience gets to see where all the sounds come from.  We watch actors with shoes on both of their hands bring them together by the microphone to create the sound of footsteps.  We see someone hold up a plastic jug half full of water to slosh around for the sound of waves.  Someone blows on the top of a beer bottle for a foghorn.  A car crash is actually the sound of a box full of miscellaneous broken parts being turned end over end by the microphone and then dropped to the floor.  A tiny wooden door frame with a handle serves for the sound of all sorts of entrances and exits.  An actor blows into some plastic tubing draped around their need to give us the sound of a car.  If there’s supposed to be conversation in the background, like a restaurant, actors will step away from the microphones so the sound is more distant.  It’s great fun to watch, and think “Oh, maybe that’s how they did it back in the day.”

“Blind drunk I’m better than you’ll ever be, and I’ll show you!”

Last year’s show was two scripts of suspense from old radio series.  This year, they’re taking on the Nazis (I can’t imagine why.  I mean, Nazis and white supremacists haven’t been resurfacing or anything lately, have they? - And that comment right there is more political than anything said during this Fringe show.  They just put it out there, you can feel free to provide the context if you like, or just enjoy some good old Nazi-bashing.)

“You spell rat: N-A-Z-I.”

At the start of each half of the show, the cast shares some basic information on the episode, the series from which it came, and any other historical context or interesting footnotes related to the script and its original production.  With the introduction out of the way, they dim the lights, ask you to listen to the sounds and the voices, and get things underway.  Once the focus on sound is established, they bring the lights back up so you can watch the actors and sound effects in action.

“Denny, you’ve got intestinal fortitude.”
“Really? Is it serious?”

“The Nazi Sub” defeated by title character Bulldog Drummond is the first half of the show; the second half recreates an episode of the old series The Chase centering around “The Newspaper Reporter” dictating his adventures into a recording device for his disbelieving editor to hear - the reporter ends up on the run when he stumbles upon the efforts to safeguard a significant Nazi fugitive from justice after World War II.  Both episodes are a real hoot to listen to, both as stories and as art created live in front of you in the moment.

“He took out an ad in the newspaper asking for excitement - legal, if possible.”

I don’t want to spoil the fun and surprises (and there are a lot of both here), so I’ll close by saying you should treat yourself and go see The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society vs. The Nazis.  It’s like stepping back in time for an hour, when it was (supposedly) a lot easier to know who the good guys and bad guys were - and more often than not, right prevailed.  It’s nice to be reminded of that, before we all get back to work fixing things here in the present.

5 Stars - Very Highly Recommended

Here's some handy links to reviews of 5 Star Shows, 4.5 Star Shows, 4 Star Shows, 3 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.

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