A psychological horror that you can’t look away from!
Veronica’s Room is the type of horror story we cut our teeth on as children. It’s the movie we snuck out to the living room to watch without permission. The book we read alone in our room jumping at every sound that cut into our concentration.
This is the 40th anniversary presentation of Ira Levin’s Veronica’s Room. Author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, and Deathtrap just to name a few. At its heart Veronica’s Room is a psychological thriller. A cautionary tale that warns us why it’s best not to trust strangers. No matter how sweet they may be.
The story follows Susan(Amelia Gotham) a young coed attending Boston University. She is on her first “official” date with Larry(Mark Souza) a Massachusetts lawyer. The story picks up as a kind elderly Irish couple(Karen Kahler and Patrick Skelton) show Larry and Susan up to a room where all the furniture is covered with sheets. They pick back up a conversation that had been started at a local restaurant before arriving at the house. The elderly couple has an unusual request for Susan and Larry shows a little trepidation. After some cajoling and a couple of awkward first date romance scenes Susan agrees to the request.
This is where your years of experience reading horror novels will have you wanting to scream run Susan run! Like all good horror stories no matter how loud your inner voice is telling her to run she’s going to stick it out. What happens next? You’ll have to go see Veronica’s Room to find out. I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Veronica’s Room does several things extremely well. The costume and set design transport you back in time; you really feel like you’re looking at a hippie coed on her first date with an uptight lawyer. The acting is a joy to watch, three of the actors take up the role of multiple characters. Patrick Skelton plays both an elderly Irishman and a middle-aged gentleman. I can’t give away anymore about the middle-aged gentleman without spoiling the surprise. What I can say is Patrick’s performance was a pleasure to watch. As the old Irishman you could see that he hung his personality on his hat. The hat that all old men wear as a sign of civility, humility, and respect. Once he picks up the role of the middle-aged gentleman his personality hangs off his hands; every now and then he rubs them together to remind himself that while weary he still has strength left in his body.
Mark Souza and Karen Kahler are both able to transform to their alternate characters seamlessly. Each character having clearly defined personalities hung about key points of their bodies. Karen Kahler pulls an additional unexpected transformation at the end of the play that leaves you questioning reality. Was this a dream, was it a nightmare, what actually happened to Veronica in that room? These are all questions left up to your own imagination. The method Kahler used for her final transformation was to be slightly reserved in all of her previous scenes with her second character. This allowed for a more visceral transformation in the end. If I had one misgiving about this technique, I think it’s that she held a little too much back. Some of her scenes read slightly slower than necessary. If she picked up the tempo just a little bit we would still be awestruck by her final transformation and not feel a tad lethargic when she was commanding the stage. Even with my one reservation her transformation at the end was spectacular, and unexpected.
I particularly enjoyed watching Susan. This is the second Play I have seen Gotham in. It’s always a pleasure to watch a good actress in a different role. You can see the similarities and differences between each of the characters portrayed and forget that it’s the same actress. There was one scene in particular where the emotions were the same as her previous performance; however the underlying motivation of the emotion was different. In the first instance it was panic and fear tempered with indomitable determination. In Veronica’s Room she showed panic and fear eroded by desperation and helplessness. You could see on her face the words she could not scream “God please… someone… anyone help me!”
If you’re a fan of classic horror this is a must-see. If you find yourself a bit squeamish when it comes to horror Veronica’s Room could be just the introduction for. It’s a classical psychological horror. The monsters are all in your head, in the mirror, in the face of your lover; not under your bed.
Veronica’s Room runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM through March 30.
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All Photos credit: The Visceral Company