A top-tier voice cast and production serves up a dystopia audio drama premise where in Earth’s inhabitants must live underground to survive a climate catastrophe. Set two years since the populous went below, The Oyster follows neuro-scientist Ori who is struggling with her conscience and trauma post “the sorting” while overseeing The Oyster Project.
As Ori, Logan Brown’s emotive at times almost spoken-word-like delivery elevates the poetic turns of the script. Her character’s suffering and yearning are ever-present in her voice. She is the centre of the show, and her malaise is the thread pulling you through this subterranean dystopia. Ori is someone with good intentions but whose actions often reflect a more selfish soul. Her conflicted nature makes for a promising character arc; however, it is undone by the injection of a romance that increasingly takes centre stage. Rushed to an unearned climax, it turns our protagonist from a hopeful but hardened hero to a love-sick stereotype.
The presence of Giancarlo Esposito and Keith David brings any production up a notch. Their butter-smooth voices exude a sinister charm in their roles. At times they do border on arch. That is not something unusual to the genre, and their performances do pull The Oyster back from the melancholic nature of Ori’s story. They do not, however, save the overall writing from a pretentious self-indulgence by its later half.
If a fan of the vocal talents involved, The Oyster may be worth your time. The whole cast is certainly a pleasure to listen to, and the sound design is excellent. The lean world-building told mainly through expository flashbacks is only there to serve the far-from-subtle metaphor. It is what they have prioritized in the narrative that undoes its potential. The Oyster does have smart social commentary about systemic injustice to offer. It is its bluntness of married with heightened dialogue that detracts from it arriving at an even more thoughtful exploration and makes it quite predictable.