Lifehouse Theater on the Air, December 2011
With its roots in California-based community theatre, Lifehouse Theater on the Air is a new effort to create audio dramas for listeners of all ages, combining classic adaptations from literature, historical dramas and Bible stories. The principal aim consists of fulfilling a public service role; to entertain as well as educate.
Produced in two parts, The Count of Monte Cristo, offered as a podcast through the good offices of Radio Drama Revival (www.radiodramarevival.com), is a rip-roaring tale of Edmond Dantes, an affianced captain in the French army, whose career seems set fair until his so-called friends plot to him him falsely accused of treason. Edmond makes a promise that, in retrospect, could lead to his undoing. Wayne Scott's adaptation shows how he tries to compensate for this rash act, as well as finding ways of revenging himself on his accusers.
Entertainingly told in a series of short sequences involving one, two or three actors, the adaptation unfolds at a great lick. We are left in no doubt as to who the good and bad guys are: although resorting to several deceptions to fulfill his aims, Edmund remains committed to the cause of right. As he says right at the end, he places his trust in God to guide him through difficult times.
Stylistically speaking, Scott's adaptation placed considerable emphasis on mood music played on a synthesizer augmented by percussion. Scenes of high drama were accompanied by rapid crescendos; more intimate scenes were introduced through strings. There was considerably more music in this Count of Monte Cristo than there might be in a BBC adaptation (for instance); as a result, the experience of listening resembled that of witnessing a Hollywood movie without the pictures. Scott also relied on sound-effects to create situations: the crackling of a fire, the dripping of a tap, the clash of swords.
I have only one criticism of an otherwise highly entertaining and clear production: the music at the beginning and the end was more redolent of a western than an historical drama, in its staccato rhythms and maracas. Perhaps something less frenetic might have been more suitable.