Vengeance at Collinwood -- Review
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Vengeance at Collinwood - A Review by JMW

This play is set at some unspecified time after Return to Collinwood and follows the set up and characters as established in that play. This works well, as it lessens the burden of the set up and explanation of approximately thirty years of backstory for the characters. This also makes the work tighter and less derivative, as there is less of a need to "hook" the audience with a series of familiar circumstances from the show and the movies.

The "partners in crime" chemistry of Willie and Quentin is something we never saw in the original series, but it works well and it sets up some of the physical comedy of the piece. Even though it's not something established in the series, they make great co-conspirators, sharing as they do a somewhat elastic sense of ethics without squeamishness when circumstances require it.

Quentin being Quentin, of course some of his best scenes are with the ladies. With Angelique you can see once again the implication that they have had encounters at various times between 1897 and the present. Both Parker and Selby play this well, playing on the similarities of the characters, both capable of extremes of compassion and cruelty. He seems simultaneously drawn to and repelled by her; physically attracted and on some levels admiring of her, yet suspicious and wary, always on his guard, as if he can never forget the dangers of being "seduced by the dark [blonde] side of the force". This is very reminiscent of their relationship in 1897, when he was attracted physically while being repelled emotionally -- and above all determined NEVER to be her pawn in any way.
This sense of repelled fascination reminded me strongly of a similar, but even darker relationship between two characters named Avon and Servalan in a British Science Fiction show named Blake's 7. In that case, it was clear that the characters must inevitably destroy each other; with Angelique and Quentin the destructive potential is more muted, but the potential is nonetheless there.

On the other side of the coin is his relationship with Maggie. The traumatizing events of the end of 1897, coupled with close to 100 years of life experiences, have tempered the once self absorbed rake into a wise, responsible and thoughtful man. However, the wit and dark humor are still there to be brought out under the right circumstances, as is the killer instinct that enables him to, to reverse a famous quote from TS Eliot, "do the wrong thing for the right reason".

The older Maggie Evans of this piece, mature, widowed from a happy marriage and reaching out to find love a second time with Quentin, has at least most of her backbone back. (Though she DOES still have a regrettable tendency to get kidnapped more often than Nancy Drew!). She is a good match for Quentin, her quiet strength and self respect very reminiscent of the EARLY Beth Chavez, (NOT the later crying machine) who stood up to Quentin, was one of the few characters to dare tell him the truth about himself, and who more than once made him back down. Both KLS and Selby do a very good job showing us a mature love based on mutual respect as well as hormones.

As good as all these actors were, however, it was Jerry Lacy in the dual role of Trask/Petersen who stole the play out from under EVERYONE. His changing back and forth, and the distinct differences he showed with each of the characters was a showcase for a truly underappreciated talent.

It is a great shame that this performance was not recorded either on tape or audio. The story itself (once again by Jamison Selby) was relatively simple, with minimal subplots. (Though this might have been due to the sudden rewriting required when 2 of the actors had to cancel their Fest appearances at the last minute for medical reasons. Reworking a script with the clock ticking that way is NOT a task I envy.) However, the story worked well, and was well constructed, with the same balance of humor and horror that defined the show itself.

Once again, like Return to Collinwood, threads have been left dangling for what will hopefully be a future continuation. It is indeed disappointing to read that, presumably due to the new works being introduced by Big Finish Productions, that there will be no new play debuting at this year's Fest. One can but hope that this doesn't ultimately mean that the loose threads of both productions are never truly addressed.

Synopsis of "Vengeance at Collinwood"

Review and Synopsis written by JMW. Review is @2006 by JMW. Please do not reprint without requesting permission and giving credit.

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