The Laurence Fishburne/Larenz Tate audio series "Bronzeville" is an old-time radio drama for the podcast age. Chances are a great majority of people alive now have never listened to a true radio drama of the sort that conquered the airwaves during the first half of the 20th century. Think of a radio drama as a movie or a play with no images, just a soundtrack. Or, alternatively, think of it as an audio book with slick, fully formed audio effects and a large cast of respected TV and film actors.
Slyly offering "lessons about navigating racial politics and maintaining group-economics," the 10-part audio drama takes place on Chicago's South Side in the 1940s in the thriving black enclave of Bronzeville. During the period covered by the series, the city has won a measure of financial independence thanks to a community-wide lottery. The cast of characters is made up of local citizens and numbers runners, and other actors featured include Lance Reddick ("The Wire") and Mitch Pileggi ("The X-Files").
Fishburne, who produced the venture with Tate and directs the vocal performances, said, "(Bronzeville) was originally conceived as a television series that myself and the Tateman went out and pitched unsuccessfully. But we were determined to do it in some kind of way. So we arrived at the idea of making a podcast and just serializing it and doing it for audio." With Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson ("A History of Violence") on board as writer, "Bronzeville" was going to become a reality in one medium or another.
Of the show, Global Grind says, "The classic soap opera style of storytelling appears to be a much-needed blast from the past." And about the show's sound design, The Guardian notes the series "has moments of violence made even more sharp by the need to fill in the blanks with your mind.”
"Bronzeville" probably requires a bit more of your attention than a normal podcast, the kind you might listen to on your commute. But it's a very classy project, and the novelty of the audio-only medium is addictive.
Episodes Available: 2
Episode Length: 45 minutes
Where to Download: iTunes