Written by Cody Quijano-Schell
Directed by David Darlington, Darren Gross and Jim Pierson
In which a girls’ night out at the Blue Whale turns into a long, dark night of the soul for Carolyn Stoddard (Barrett)…
One thing about Dark Shadows that its fans affectionately mock and celebrate is the rather limited selection of music available on the Blue Whale’s jukebox. From 1966 to 1971, whenever characters visited the local watering hole, the same two tunes would emanate from its speakers. But now that Bob Rooney’s nephew Jonah has taken on a stronger role in running the bar (while his uncle recovers from a heart attack), change is in the air.
Change has not been in the air for Carolyn Stoddard, however. For most of the 2013 Dark Shadows audios, she’s been sidelined, a tipsy, stagnating presence on the periphery, drowning her sorrows as a young widow while other characters get on with their lives. But considering all that has happened to Carolyn, who can blame her? Perhaps if things had been different, other choices had been made; maybe her life would’ve been better…
Or would it have been? As Carolyn discovers, courtesy of Jonah – who isn’t quite himself this evening, incidentally – things can always be worse. After all, she could be married to Willie Loomis. She could be a vampire, or a Leviathan Queen, or even a werewolf. Jonah should know; after all, he’s witnessed all these possibilities, and more.
To say that Cody Quijano-Schell puts Carolyn through the wringer is putting it very mildly. The metaphorical mirror shoved in her face forces her to face some very unpleasant truths which had this reviewer squirming more than once. It’s all at once almost unbearably uncomfortable, yet utterly compelling at the same time.
Thankfully, Nancy Barrett is more than up to the challenges that this story sets for her. Many of the Dark Shadows audios that she’s participated in have been virtual showcases for her talent, and The Flip Side is perhaps Barrett’s finest hour as she travels through all manner of strong emotions and never once hits a false note. Her final scene – a one-sided phone conversation with her mother in which Carolyn pours her heart out in a cathartic torrent – is an absolute belter.
Verdict: A blistering character study that plays to all of Dark Shadows’ strengths on audio – and an original song to boot! 9/10
John S. Hall