Sasquatch. Rollercoasters. Subway Preachers.
Just three of the curious topics you'll hear about in this series from the New England area. But how are they related? After three episodes, I'm still not sure if they are, or if they're even meant to be.
Greater Boston is an audio drama series that defies categorisation. It's wonderfully eclectic, funny at times, and interesting throughout.
On the surface, it appears to be an anthology of sorts, with nothing to link the goings-on beyond their location (the clue is in the name). We move from one tale of curiosity to another, left somewhat amused but befuddled. And before we can make sense of it, we speed on to the next zany happening. It's almost a sketch show but instead of strict comedy, it's more of a Thought Experiment.
In fairness, halfway through episode 2, I noticed one or two of the tales seem to be linked. Characters fleetingly reference each other on occasion, but I'm still left wondering what to make of it all. Are the various characters' lives all going to converge eventually? The chaotic narrative is almost single-handedly held together by the quirky and imaginative writing.
The actors have a job on their hands here and, to their credit, they step up admirably. They sound like real people, not actors in a studio holding laminated scripts. Lifelike and convincing in a way so many audio drama actors fail to pull off. Again, I'm sure a lot of that is down to the writing and directing.
The production is acceptable. Appropriate, even. They achieve a lot with a little, and there's nothing wrong with that. I just mean they use basic sound effects and ambience but do it well. Subtle and unobtrusive, they support the dialogue rather than overpower it.
As a result, the whole thing sounds believable. It's like you're eavesdropping on some amateur documentary maker.
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We live in a world where we regularly complain about fiction that's painting-by-numbers. The same old narratives with obvious stereotypes, predictable story arcs and creatively-bankrupt endings. “Why don't they make something original? Something fresh?”
Well, Jeff Van Dreason and Alexander Danner have. They call it Greater Boston and I applaud them for it.
Worryingly for us audience members, we're perhaps so institutionalised by Hollywood that GB is almost TOO fresh to handle. I felt like a Pit Pony exposed to sunlight for the first time in years.
“Do I like it? I think so? Yes, I do! Just… give me a minute to adjust.”
I recommend you fight the urge to stick with predictability and give this chaotic breath of fresh air a chance. The first four episodes are available now.
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