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Return to Collinwood -- Synopsis (Radio Play DS Fest 2003)

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Photo from the live performance of "Return to Collinwood"

Return to Collinwood -- Synopsis  
 Performed at the Dark Shadows Festival in Brooklyn, NY August 2003
Written & directed by Jamison Selby from a story by Jim Pierson & Jamison Selby
(The audio version of this performance is available on CD from

MPI Home Video

It is now about thirty years after we last saw the Collins family. Elizabeth has just died, about two years after the death of her brother, Roger. The family, now headed by Carolyn, is being gathered for the reading of the will and the obligatory – if you’re a Collins, anyway -- associated Séance. The peripatetic Quentin Collins, who returned to the family some years earlier, has been trying to locate David, now an archaeologist, and bring him home for the reading. He has now returned, unsuccessful, from trying to track David down in the remote jungles of Peru.

Quentin and Maggie (widowed for 8 years now after the death of Joe Haskell) have the beginnings of a relationship, and have been together about a year. Carolyn is now a parapsychologist and university professor, married to lawyer Ned Stuart (we never find out if this is just a coincidence in names, or whether this is THE Ned Stuart who was Sabrina Stuart’s brother in the original series). Mrs. Johnson is gone, and in her place is her protégé, the Mrs. Danvers-like Mrs. Franklin. Willie Loomis now owns the Blue Whale, and is happily married to a spirited, feisty woman named Jessica. They live in the Old House, which Willie has completely modernized, not only installing plumbing and electricity, but we see him gleefully planning a whirlpool bath in the basement. Jessica is uncertain about the Séance that Elizabeth wants, but Willie insists he owes it to her. They are both worried, though, that the terms of the will may deed the Old House to someone else, and force them to move out.

In conversation with various characters, we suddenly start hearing about Carolyn’s odd behavior: painting in the Tower Room – and not only painting, but changing suddenly from the landscape study she started to the painting of a woman. And this is not a painting of just any woman, but a blonde woman whom she vaguely remembered, from a portrait that Vicky Winters found in an antique store years before.

Willie meanwhile, is having problems with his long coveted new whirlpool. In tracing the stoppage back he finds that the pipes were clogged by a large, heavy parcel sealed in the wall – and included in the parcel is a letter addressed to Willie.

After dinner, Maggie returns to Windcliff where she makes her nightly visit to a long term catatonic patient – one Sebastian Shaw. After she leaves a familiar female voice is heard calling Sebastian – and he not only responds to Angelique, but obeys her. Carolyn, meanwhile is having a terrifying, recurring nightmare about a woman who was shot.

The group gathers in the Collinwood study, waiting for Carolyn to direct the séance to begin. Quentin is very uneasy about this and warns caution, but stays to participate in the ceremony. As they go on, a spirit appears to respond to the summons. But something is not right – whoever this spirit is, she has blonde hair and blue eyes. Quentin tries to stop the séance, but it’s too late as a high pitched woman’s laughter echoes through the room. Quentin recognizes the laughter and attempts to banish Angelique’s presence. Her laughter continues on and on then all is quiet as Carolyn passes out cold. After she recovers she asks Ned to contact her old professor, Dr. Robert Harker (Jim Storm) an expert on all kinds of paranormal activity. Later, in conversation with Dr Harper, Carolyn realizes that another entity has been acting through her and she and Dr. Harper plan some research in order to formulate a defense.

Some time after this Jessica is at the Old House alone when there is a knock on the door. This is a very strangely behaving Sebastian Shaw who attacked her as the scene fades. Meanwhile, during a discussion of the events of the séance, Maggie receives word that Shaw has gone missing from Windcliff.

A visitor then arrives and asks to speak with Mrs. Stoddard. This is Angelique, of course, who immediately gets into a fencing match with Quentin, who recognizes her, even though she has reassumed the persona of Roger’s ex wife Cassandra.

Angelique pays Quentin a visit in his rooms in the West Wing. She makes not very veiled threats to reveal him for what he is – unless he keeps her secrets. There are also heavy implications of a history between them above and beyond what we saw of them in 1897. “You have loved me before. You will love me again.”

“Or I will send you straight to the abyss.” This love hate relationship reminds me strongly of two characters – Avon and Servalan -- in a series called Blakes 7. Characters who are strongly attracted to one another, yet who are quite capable of destroying one another if that is what survival requires.

As she leaves, Angelique’s parting shot is that he has underestimated her. She has something of his – and she is sure he will figure out soon enough what that is.

Quentin and Willie meet up later in the barn. Willie explains that the police have identified Jessica’s attacker as Sebastian Shaw. As they discuss how bizarre this is (and how that word is being used more and more around Collinwood lately) Willie reveals just what was in the parcel – tightly wrapped in plastic and cloth -- that he found while redoing the plumbing. It was left by Barnabas – with a letter to Willie explaining that the portrait of Quentin must be protected from destruction else great harm would come to the world. Quentin guesses that the portrait has now gone missing and asks for Willie’s help with a plan he is making to get it back.

Angelique and Quentin are having a private dinner at Collinwood, and their verbal fencing is becoming more and more barbed and open as they discuss lycanthropy vs. witchcraft, sorcery, murder and mayhem. As the fencing continues Willie is out in the graveyard armed only with his flashlight, muttering and bemoaning his fate as he searches for Shaw in the various crypts. Sebastian comes out of the Collins crypt and warns him away. “The Lady doesn’t want you here”. They fight and, at the price of a pulled muscle, Willie wins.

Maggie has returned to Collinwood and Mrs. Franklin takes great glee in showing her Angelique and Quentin at their “romantic dinner”. In full pathological Mrs. Danvers mode, Mrs Franklin tells Maggie how THEY are the future of Collinwood, and how she has never and will never belong there. What Maggie doesn’t realize is that this is no romantic encounter, but a fencing match of old adversaries. Angelique, in a move reminiscent of both Petofi’s overtures to Quentin in 1897 and Darth Vader trying to lure Luke Skywalker to the Dark side of the Force, is trying to seduce Quentin into partnering with her to rule the Collins’ fortune and Collinwood together throughout their immortal eternities.

Just as Angelique demands Quentin’s answer, Willie bursts in. Angelique, in her most archly polite impolite manner, tries to get Willie to leave before Quentin interrupts her. Willie then updates Angelique on putting “your happy little henchman out of commission.” This of course means that Quentin’s portrait has been retrieved from Sebastian, thus removing Angelique’s hold over Quentin.

Spoiling for a fight after her ignominious defeat, she encounters Maggie and needles her. This is just NOT Angelique’s day, as not only does this technique NOT demoralize Maggie, but it earns Angelique a well deserved slap in the face.

The next morning is the reading of the will. The bequests to David and Carolyn are not unexpected. And, in a nice turn of irony, the irresponsible rascal Quentin of 1897 has proven himself trustworthy and responsible enough to be given permanent control – and half ownership - of all the business interests comprising Collins Industries.

Willie, too, finally gets the respect he both deserves and has earned. Elizabeth has given him the formal ownership of the Old House, which he had restored and cared for for so long.

Then there is the final surprise – yet not such a surprise to Dark Shadows fans as it is to the Collins family of the piece – the revelation of the parentage of Victoria Winters. The family is just absorbing this stunning bit of information when a stranger knocks at the door. She introduces herself as Violet Collins, a professor of Archaeology and David Collins’ wife.

Quentin, as cynical and suspicious as ever, is questioning the woman – a tall blonde who states that her maiden name had been Chavez. The story she gives is that David is hiding out due to some controversial research he is involved in. He gave her a number of important papers – including their marriage license – so that she can prove her identity to the family in his place and act for him until he feels free to reappear. Not only her story, but her resemblance to a "local Chavez" Quentin used to know, is making him very uneasy.

That evening Maggie asks Quentin about Cassandra. He gives an evasive answer about how old things come to the surface when people like them meet up again. This does NOT satisfy Maggie and she calls him on it, demanding he choose. She will NOT tolerate any more secrets. He must decide whether she’s the person he can share things – and more importantly, himself – with. In a display of backbone and integrity reminiscent of both the early Maggie and the early, strong minded Beth Chavez she insists that she will neither be lied to or lie to herself. Most especially she won’t accept a love that isn’t real. Quentin resists – his secrets are too old and he hasn’t shared them in so long. He speaks of the dark places everyone has, best locked away from others, never to be shared.

Maggie counters that denial is the real danger; burying the darkness until there is nothing BUT darkness. And, if that’s what he chooses to do, she won’t stay and watch it happen.

Faced with the truth of her words, Quentin relents and asks her to pull up a chair. He has a great many years to cover. Maggie tells him he has all the time in the world. Quentin laughs at the sudden aptness of the clichéd old expression and decides that that is as good a place as any for him to begin.

Links to more of the photos I took during this performance can be found at:

Click HERE to go to the review of Return to Collinwood

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