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Erika Slezak Library

Soap Opera Digest
November 13th, 2001
Volume 26, No. 45

Editor's Choice:
The Changeling, OLTL

by unknown

So, it all comes down to this: Having discovered a potential loophole in OLTL's history – who says the child returned by Allison after several weeks of kidnapping was the same one she stole from the Llanfair crib in 1986 – writers faced a daunting task.

To make this enormous tweak of history work, they'd need to assemble their best actors and craft emotional, crackling writing that lifted the question off the page, landing it square in the realm of "could have really happened."  Adding in a good, old-fashioned bitch-slap (from the wounded Jessica to smug Natalie) was just the cherry on top.  Man, this was fun!  

Although Natalie, Seth and Allison's shenanigans have been idling for a few weeks now, it wasn't until Viki – happening upon Natalie telling Seth that he was her man, not Jessica's –asked,  "What did you just say?" that the engine was thrown into full gear. A face-off with vet Erika Slezak (Viki) requires a confidence that most actors couldn't muster, Melissa Archer (who does lean towards frequent, strenuous pop-eyed surprise) however, lived up to the challenge.  Nat had a secret hidden under the enormous chip on her shoulder. So, in an extended sequence (during which Erin Torpey's Jessica , rarely looking so sweetly vulnerable, ran around Llanview discovering that her boyfriend and new best friend had been lying to her), Natalie taunted a righteously angry Viki.  

Yet Viki never threw her out, coming down hard on Natalie with a simmering, narrow-eyed gaze, as if daring her to realize the error  of her ways and ask forgiveness.  Natalie never flinched, lips curling back in disgust at Mrs. Davidson's perceived arrogance.  "Seth and I are lovers. And we have been since way before we met Jessica."  But Natalie was just playing for time.  With that satisfying smack in the face out of the way and all the players assembled, including a long-suspicious Ben and an overeager Allison, Nat could finally move the chip aside and let the secret out.  The success of the scenes grew out of more than just having all the characters together – thanks to the muted, creepily building music, and the staging, which put all of Viki and Natalie's sparring in the Llanfair living room, then crammed the other actors in there too, the scenes had a closeness verging on claustrophobia.  It was tense.  It was meant to be that way.  

The players took sides : Ben, Jessica and Viki Vs Seth, Natalie and Allison.  Viki demanded an answer: "What is it that you and Allison are planning to do to my daughter?"  "Your daughter?" grinned Natalie, delivering her long-held punchline with thick relish.  "Oh, she's not your daughter. She's nothing.  I'm your daughter."  And with that explosive release, the humid closeness hissed out of that room like air from a balloon.  It all came out: How Allison took one baby but brought back another, how dirt-poor Natalie grew up embittered that her own mother hadn't realized that shed been given back a changeling, and so on.  

The ripples will resonate for months and years.  With a less-than-deft treatment, this story could have lumbered around like a blind giant.  Instead, the talented cast, crew and writers once again proved they've got the talent and guts to handle any twist in the tale – no matter how big.

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