Valdemar is an Immersive Poe Experience You Need to Hear
Redfield Arts Audio proudly presents this Edgar Allan Poe-inspired audio play.
By Jay Gervais
Looking for a great way to spend a quiet and rainy evening? Get yourself comfortable in a dark, candlelit room and immerse yourself in Redfield Arts Audio’s Valdemar. This new audio theater company is based in Baltimore, Maryland, which is, in fact, an important place for followers of Edgar Allan Poe, since the peripatetic writer had lived some of his life in this city and would eventually rest for good there.
Valdemar is a production written and directed by Mark Redfield, who based his audio play on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 short story “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” Redfield is undoubtedly a loyal follower of the famous writer, where he’s dedicated much of his time to Poe-related causes, from being actively involved in various organizations to producing and starring in live and studio-based audio productions, both original and classic, and showing his support for all things Poe.
In Valdemar, Redfield lends his voice talents and plays the character Harlan Hurlock. Joining him in the starring role is the multi-talented Jennifer Rouse as Elmira Valdemar, who in addition to lending her voice to the production, also provided original music and sound design. Finally, J.R. Lyston voices the character Ernest Valdemar.
The story is relatively easy to follow along, which is set in a dream-like urban city in the early 20th century, a world where the rich and pampered collide with the sideshow carnival huckster and con-man. The greedy and selfish fall victim to their own desires with horrifying consequences. Ernest Valdemar, a wealthy and stubborn old man, is told he has just one year left to live and becomes obsessed with cheating death after reading about the so-called abilities of mesmerist Harlan Hurlock. He tasks his young wife Elmira, a woman with her own mysterious secrets, to seek out Harlan and request an audience with him at their residence, but as he soon learns, no one can truly escape death.
While Redfield Arts Audio is a new audio theater company, the people involved are no amateurs and tirelessly display their many talents as well as any seasoned professional. The acting is tasteful and unmistakably coming straight from their hearts. You can clearly hear and feel the passion these performers have of their craft, which propels Valdemar to an even higher experience.
Character personalities and profiles are quickly established and there is never any doubt of who is speaking at any time. The acting is even and there is never any moment where someone under- or over-acts any of their dialogue. Rouse does most of the heavy lifting here, both playing her character and providing the narration of the story at the same time. However, the rapid back-and-forth between the two was at times abrupt without any slight change in pitch, but listeners shouldn’t be too distracted by such a minor detail and will adjust accordingly.
In terms of the sound itself, this is where many audio productions such as these can falter and could make or break the entire experience for listeners. For many, investing in professional studio sound equipment is understandably beyond reach and more affordable options are explored instead, which of course runs the risk of diminishing production quality in the process. This is where Valdemar shines, as the sound quality is noticeably superior and truly immerses listeners in Redfield’s fascinating world.
The audio experience is edited together quite well and there are no glaring issues to speak of. The microphones are close with a warm sound, which is quite pleasing and provides an intimate experience for listeners. The microphones don’t pop and the audio doesn’t noticeably clip at any point, both of which can be consistently obnoxious issues when it comes to poorly-made, amateur productions. While this may be an unimportant point to some, it’s these fine comb touches that make a huge difference. The creatives behind Redfield Arts Audio know their stuff and show a respect for only the finest audio.
The music by Rouse is marvelous and never disturbs the flow of the experience or goes out of its way to make its own irritating statements. She takes listeners through the story and her compositions are colorful and not only work well with the story, but also maintain the right level of intensity and emotion to elegantly compliment the voice talents and additional audio.
Rouse performed the music herself using an Alesis MIDI keyboard, which is brought to life in Logic Pro X with Native Instruments’ products, a company which specializes in virtual studio technology (VST) audio plug-in software that is used by many industry professionals. Rouse adjusts the music appropriately to match the narrative and may even creatively fool you in thinking this was all performed in real-time as though this audio drama transforms into a live performance.
While this writer cannot personally speak on how faithful Valdemar is to the legacy of Poe and the short story this audio drama is based on, Redfield is a devoted fan and we should confidently entrust him to deliver a truly gratifying experience that honors his works. Even if you aren’t quite familiar with Poe, this audio play may stimulate your curiosity about him and provide a great starting point for your adventure into his world of mystery and endless imagination. Overall, this was quite a thrilling and highly-entertaining near half-hour ride and we’d highly recommend you embark on this journey yourself.