The Secrets of Avondale Falls

Victoria Davenport. Rex Harrington. Magical Talking Horse. Guard. Priest. The Dark Beast of Teeth and Sadness. From the moment you peruse the character names in The Secrets of Avondale Falls program book, you can tell you’re in for something unusu

click to enlarge 'The Secrets of Avondale Falls'
'The Secrets of Avondale Falls'

Victoria Davenport. Rex Harrington. Magical Talking Horse. Guard. Priest. The Dark Beast of Teeth and Sadness. From the moment you peruse the character names in The Secrets of Avondale Falls program book, you can tell you’re in for something unusual. On its face, The Secrets of Avondale Falls is a 1980s soap opera staged as a 1930s radio drama, from the minds of the O’Debra Twins. (Tanya O’Debra’s work includes Radio Star, which many Fringe attendees still rave about, but Avondale Falls is my first experience with the O’Debras’ work.)If you’re expecting the elements of a campy ’80s Dynasty-style soap opera — a rich and handsome doctor, a bed trick involving a set of twins, a mysterious poisoning — you won’t be disappointed. But Avondale Falls quickly spirals into the bizarre to include an Island of Clones, an alien invasion, the aforementioned talking horse and more. Unfortunately, the show never bridges the divide between absurd-for-absurd’s sake and truly funny. It received a polite reaction from the opening night audience.That’s not the say the show is never funny. Each character certainly finds its laugh-out-loud moments, and the entire cast’s voice acting is over-the-top and wonderful. Particularly hilarious is the Irish-ish scullery maid Snagglecrag, portrayed by Antonia Lassar, whom audiences might recognize from this year’s Fringe show Post Traumatic Super Delightful. (She will also be part of Thursday evening’s trueFRINGE offering.) Lassar alone seems to understand that, while the play is being staged as a radio drama, the audience can still see the actors — many of whom read straight from their scripts for the bulk of their performance. A few missed cues or stumbled lines made it feel as though the actors are not prepared with the script, perhaps due to this crutch.There are other ways that the radio drama format did not completely pay off. For me, potential was lost in the Foley art, a core element of radio theater. While the simplest sound effects, such as a door slamming or fabric ripping, were eagerly reproduced by Tanya O’Debra at a small table of props, the more compelling sounds issued from a laptop computer. There is little wrong with this approach, but each time I heard an MP3 of a laser beam or a jet ski it felt as though a window for creativity had been missed. The opportunity — and the challenge — of a radio drama is in successfully invoking the theater of the mind, and this could have been an entertaining aspect for the cast to explore.

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