I have a lot of room in my life for vampires. I make zero apologies for how many times I’ve read the Twilight series, or for how much I’ve written about Edward Cullen and company. My favorite T-shirt is a graphic tee with a design of a tombstone reading, “Buffy Anne Summers: she saved the world a lot.” She slayed the vampires—this is true. But she also fell madly, deeply in love with one—perhaps the best one.
Buffy is one of the few “who can stand being buddies with a creature of the night,” as Sonia writes in her second Winter Stars play. So I was delightedly haunted when I realized Thomas, the charming hotel employee (of course he’s charming), in “To the Shadows We Return,” was a vampire.
I admit, I was hoping for a love story. I think Thomas was, too. As soon as Sylvia, a hotel guest who turns out to be a vampire hunter, stepped on the scene it was as though Thomas read my mind. “Change her,” we both thought.
I assumed Sylvia came back to be changed as well (I guess I blame Bella Swan for that), but this was not the case. Of course, Sylvia has a say in whether or not she is to be turned into the eternally undead, and of course it is grossly caveman-like for Thomas to think he could make this decision for her. I do wish, though, that Sylvia had empathized a bit with Thomas’ situation. He tells Raymond—seemingly his best friend—he’d rather be burned to ashes than to choose between being “alone in the world or alone in some scientist’s building.” Maybe she’s not meant to be, but Sylvia is more villainous than the storybook monster Thomas is. At least, she’s not showing much willingness to embrace nuance.
Raymond does. Raymond is disgusted with what he learns about Thomas’ eating habits, and throughout the play he considers killing his dear friend because of it. However, he also loves Thomas as only a best friend who knows everything about another person—dark flaws and glittery virtues combined—can know. Though Raymond doesn’t agree with Thomas’ “slips of judgment,” he knows what he is and he wants to help Thomas to remain alive (or, as undead as possible).
Perhaps this is a love story, though a sad one. It’s a story of desiring love, it’s a story of friendship, it’s a story of the throb of being alone, and what happens when we refuse to make room for vampires.
We’re discussing Sonia Barkat’s collection of 10-minute plays this month.
For Discussion or Journaling:
- This play is a fantasy. How does the fantastic help us with the truth? What does “To the Shadows We Shall Return” say about reality?
- Of the three characters in the play, who do you relate to the most?
- Why is it is difficult, but also a good practice to see more to a monster (both those that are imagined and those that are real)?