Audio Drama Review – Maggie And Quentin: The Lovers’ Refrain From Dark Shadows

by Rachel Bellwoar

Maggie and Quentin: The Lovers’ Refrain
Directed by David Darlington, Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Jim Pierson
Dark Shadows was one of my mom’s favorite shows growing up, so when I heard Big Finish was dropping this audio drama before her birthday, I knew I had to check it out. Original cast members, Kathryn Leigh Scott and David Selby, are both back voicing lovebirds, Maggie Evans and Quentin Collins. Quentin was my mom’s favorite, so I knew he was Barnabas’ cousin and either a vampire or a werewolf. Maggie was a new name to me, but it appears she’s from a Parallel Time Collinwood. That’s not something I learned listening to this set and it’s nothing you need to know to understand what’s going on, but after the first story (there are four), I was curious.

Maybe a fan would speak to a different experience but, listening to Lila Whelan’s “The Girl Beneath the Water,” not knowing a lot about Dark Shadows turned out to be a benefit.  Without prior knowledge to set off alarms, it’s really a trip when you realize how much of the story’s built on lies.
It’s Quentin’s 65th birthday and their children, Ronan (Clark Alexander) and Emily (Zara Symes), have come for the weekend to celebrate. Whelan puts a lot of faith in the cast to make dinner table talk sustaining and it’s well placed, because nothing sounds better than scoring an invite to this table. The conversations are warm and animated. Unresolved family issues crop up in hints, but the gripes are old and not tense.
When they finally break up for the evening, Maggie and Emily stop to look at a painting. Emily mentions that the girl beneath the water gives her the creeps. Why is this painting getting attention? Could it be that it doesn’t belong, but then how could that be, since both Maggie and Emily remember it being there? An onion of a tale, where everything comes out in layers, you couldn’t ask for a story more welcoming to beginners, yet it’s appeal extends beyond that to anyone patient enough to unravel the truth.
Mark Thomas Passmore’sThe Sand That Speaks His Name” follows a completely different structure, but the quality doesn’t skip a beat. Maggie and Quentin are visiting New York, when a golem with ties to Quentin’s past shows up. Maggie and Quentin share the narration, but their style is conversational, not scripted. While each story is all-encompassing this is also where you realize the stories are in sequence. You’re meant to listen to them in order, which adds to the characters’ emotional growth.
After “Girl” and “Sand,” Cody Schell’sThe Hollow Winds That Beckon” feels more subdued. Maggie and Quentin go fishing and it’s the two of them alone. Actors don’t come more talented than Scott and Selby but that’s still a lot of pressure on them to keep listeners occupied. In this story and Alan Flanagan’sThe Paper to the Flame,” too, Maggie and Quentin start questioning if they should get married. Dredge up all the legitimate relationship concerns you like, that’s really a question that doesn’t need time to answer, so it feels like a step backwards for the latter half of this set to have not moved past these doubts. Otherwise you’ve got a shipwreck in “Hollow” and another painting causing trouble in “Flame.” The word “weak” doesn’t apply to any of these stories.
What is cool to see in all four, is Maggie pulling a lot of the weight. Quentin is the bigger name – a Collins – but this set never hesitates to put Maggie in the forefront. She’s a co-lead in the truest sense, and the last words of “Flame” are hers. When allowed to be a power couple, nothing stands in their way. Don’t refrain from singing the praises of Maggie and Quentin: The Lovers’ Refrain
Maggie and Quentin: The Lovers’ Refrain is available now from Big Finish.

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