ZBS

Reviews - ZBS Audio Theater

by Darryl Riser


Saratoga

Saratoga Springs

Quirky characters in realistic settings are a trademark of ZBS Foundation's work. Saratoga Springs, an audio drama spanning five cassette tapes, is no exception.

Set in the New York resort town famed for horseracing and mineral springs, author Meatball Fulton's adult fable manages to create a microcosm with which everyone can identify.

The story is told through 90 separate episodes featuring recurring characters such as White Boy Rick, the retired dealer of psychadelic drugs; Gypsy Markoff, the fortune teller who knows life is a scam; New Age Nancy, the California transplant who has trouble remembering what it's all about; Ducks Quackenbush, a true lover of all the nature he can shoot and suff; Waspy Carmicheal, an art dealer with a love of poetry and desire to become a wildman in the woods; and Mr. Stiffy, who sells ice cream from a truck with the motto, "Mr. Stiffy, Hard as a Rock. Ding. Ding."

You also get a heavy dose of local color and New York state history from Willie ... you know Willie, he's that one friend who everything reminds of a true story. If you don't have a friend like Willie, you're probably him. And then, there's Donna Dollardaze, the clerk at the local grocery store, who spends half her time daydreaming and the other half listening to the computerized voice of her cash register totaling up her life.

All that changes, of course, when the mysterious stranger comes to town.

The amazing thing about this story is that the writer is able to merge all those quirky characters and varying viewpoints together into a seamless tapestry that entertains as it enlightens.

In the six hours it takes to tell this story, readers will become keenly aware that every character they encounter is desperately seeking something. Atheists, New Agers, eaters of magic mushrooms and born again Christians all bump into one another at the Road Kill Cafe or the local bank as they continue their search.

Readers who've studied metaphysics will find themselves chuckling at some of the viewpoints while the uninitiated may pick up a few pointers as to which path suits their own needs. Amazingly, the author is able to present a number of varying philosophies without actually taking sides.

Whether you're into philosophy, history, humor or poetry, this series of interlinked vignettes literally has something for everyone. And, of course, it's all held together by ZBS Foundation's masterful recording technology.

One of the things which sets ZBS apart from the crowd of companies publishing books on tape is that everyone involved has a firm background in radio. These isn't a written story adapted to an audio format. It was written specifically to be performed by a talented group of radio actors.

ZBS Foundation is a non-profit group dedicated to raising consciousness through radio. With Saratoga Springs, they've done a beautiful job of fulfilling that goal. Do yourself a favor. Listen to this tape in a darkened room. Get comfortable, close your eyes and let your imagination reawaken to form pictures in your mind.

You'll be glad you did.

Saratoga Springs is available from ZBS Foundation on five cassette tapes for $35. For a catalog or more information, call 1-800-662- 3345; write ZBS Foundation, RR #1, Ft. Edward, NY 12828-9702; or check out their website at http://www.zbs.org


Insider's Lounge

At one point or another, everyone's felt like they don't fit in. Living as an outsider takes up a hefty amount of everyone's life.

But, what if that need to fit in was more than just a idle longing? What if it were the first sign that you truly did belong somewhere else ... in another place, another time, maybe even a whole other dimension?

That's the discovery Homer Duckencover makes one night "on a back road, at the outskirts of the Middle of Nowhere." An old pickup truck stops and his long lost high school girlfriend, Raisenette Boxer offers him a ride.

Moments later, Homer's the newest regular at the Insiders Lounge, a metaphysical hangout for folks who just never quite clicked in their own space-time continuum.

Like the music it spoofs with love, ZBS Foundation's one- hour audio drama "The Insiders Lounge" is sure to become an immortal classic. Once inside the lounge, Homer is introduced to such luminaries as emcee Mundungus Ball and Swivvel Fuqua, the armless Elvis impersonator.

Written, produced and starring Linda Fuller, a talented writer who's been on staff at Saturday Night Live and The Tracy Ullman Show, the drama gives listeners the story of an outsider who's found his way home ... and of the powerful forces trying to put him back where he doesn't belong.

Other surprising members of the cast include Jamie Donnelly, who was the lead in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grease and Jerry Nelson, longtime Muppet cast member, best known as the voice of "The Count" and "Floyd."

While the story is interesting, the real magic of this audio drama comes from the original music which weaves through the narrative. The skillful mix of country, progressive, bluegrass and rockabilly keeps the story moving along through the use of some of the most creative lyrics ever recorded in those genres.

The theme song, for example, plaintively wails:

"We still have champagne left from the bash for that hustler who married a blind afghan hound. Public opinion, don't matter much now since they met at the Insider's Lounge."
The intriguing thing about this audio drama is that its just as entertaining whether you love or hate country music. It's never quite clear whether the author is paying homage to the genre or making fun of it. In the end, it doesn't really matter. You'll find yourself humming "Lover's Cuisinart" or "Through Rose Colored Shot Glasses" just the same.

Blending sci-fi, philosophy and music, "The Insider's Lounge" is an enjoyable tale that will leave listeners wishing they hadn't entered the lounge a second too late to hear the immortal classics "From the Gutter to You Is Not Up" and "He Gave Her a Ride on his Handlebar Mustache." They'll be just as glad they got to hear the rest of the band's set.

The Insider's Lounge is available from ZBS Foundation on one cassette ($9.95) or CDs ($15). For a catalog or more information, call 1-800-662-3345; write ZBS Foundation, RR #1, Ft. Edward, NY 12828-9702; or check out their website at http://www.zbs.org


Visit reviewer Darryl Riser's web page at http://users.ipa.net/~envoy/.


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