Insanity Intrigues in River Street Playhouse’s Uniquely Twisted “Veronica’s Room”
By Marjorie Preston
The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s production of “Veronica’s Room” by Ira Levin, now at the River Street Playhouse, is a thriller that takes audiences on a bumpy ride through a world of insanity.
In a Massachusetts mansion in the year 1973, two elderly Irish caretakers of an estate have brought a young girl (Natalie Dolezal) on a date with a young man (Brendon Berns) to see a painting in the room of a girl said to have passed away of tuberculosis in 1935. Once the girl is in their home, the woman (Lisa Freebairn-Tarr) and man (Craig Gifford) tell the girl that she bears a striking resemblance to Veronica (the girl they say passed away). But “Don’t you worry,” says the woman, “Everything is safe.” The man adds, “It’ll be a breeze.”
They ask her help in easing the guilt of Veronica’s sister, Sissy, who they say is slipping into dementia as a result of terminal cancer. The couple tell the young girl that if she would just pretend to be Veronica and have a conversation with Sissy, she can make her last days more peaceful. However, the caretakers are not who they claim to be. Veronica is alive, and she is insanely murderous. In the meantime, the girl begins to question her own sanity.
Freebairn-Tarr is perfectly creepy as the woman, and her distant eyes bring to mind Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” when she reveals herself to be something other than an Irish caretaker. Dolezal plays sweet naif as a counterpoint and watching her question her sanity is disturbing and compelling. Berns switches easily from skeptical love interest to cold and calculating. Gifford ‘s Irish accent is a miss, but he is otherwise believable in his role.
Director/Producer Laurel Bryant has been drawn to this play for years and her passion for the piece shows. The audience may think they’re getting a quaint Massachusetts drama and instead is jolted into a dark thriller by the author of “Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” Technical Director Edmond Wolff’s set is a lovely country mansion complete with antique wooden furniture and Victrola.
“Veronica’s Room” is sure to keep you guessing and may even make you squirm as you try to figure out which, if any, of the characters is sane. The play itself, and everyone in it, appear to spiral into madness – how perfect for the Halloween season.
“Veronica’s Room” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through November 10th at the River Street Playhouse, 56 River Street, Chagrin Falls. For tickets, call (440) 247-8955 or visit www.cvlt.org. All tickets to the River Street Playhouse are $10. The play features violence, adult language and content.