Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Welcome Revival of Ira Levin's Veronica's Room
Also see Bob's review of Red
The time is 1973 (the year that Veronica's Room opened on Broadway). The setting is a bedroom in a mansion in a suburb half an hour from Boston on a Spring night. Earlier in the evening, BU student Susan and her lawyer boyfriend Larry, while dining out at a restaurant on their second date, were approached by John and Maureen Mackey, a kind, elderly Irish couple. The servant couple told Susan that she bore a remarkable resemblance to Veronica, the daughter of the family for whom they worked, who died of consumption more than thirty years earlier. John and Maureen urged Susan to come back to the mansion, so they could show her a photograph of Veronica. As the curtain rises, Susan, having responded to the Mackeys' emotional neediness, accompanied by the Mackeys and the reluctant Larry, enters Veronica's Room.
Thus begins a twisty and suspenseful, darkly perverse and powerful fun evening in the theatre. It is only fair to add that if that sentence strikes you as extremely oxymoronic, Veronica's Room may not be your cup of tea. Despite a dynamite production starring the redoubtable Eileen Heckart and Arthur Kennedy back in 1973, Veronica's Room only attained a run of 79 performances on Broadway, and certainly had its dismayed detractors. However, if you are intrigued, it should help you to know that Levin subsequently prepared a revised, toned down version and it is this version which is performed today.
Debra Whitfield (Maureen) and Rick Delaney (John) appear to be directed to emote in an overly broad fashion for most of the first act, but recover nicely when the play gets down to business. Michael Manahan is a satisfactory Larry. The find of the evening is the fledgling Rosemary Glennon. Glennon makes us care for her bubbly, yet centered, Linda, and then subtly conveys the complexities of Linda's bewilderment, fear and growing knowledge.
Director Daniel LaPenta has directed a well paced production. Despite the play's lack of dramatic support for a first act curtain, LaPenta, with the help of Glennon, creates an ominous, chilling curtain almost completely from his own atmospherics. The production seems to tip some of Veronica's Room's secrets too early. There is a bit of pre-curtain jangly music sounds seriously intended and, inadvertently, silly. The melodramatic music underscoring a couple of frenzied moments is distracting and suggests a lack of confidence in the dramaturgy.
The richly entertaining and engrossing Veronica's Room is a tricky and complexly plotted play that is very difficult to fully realize. While this production scarcely is definitive, it is lively and entertaining and well worth a visit.
Veronica's Room continues performances (Evenings: Friday and Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Thursday and Sunday 2 pm) through February 12, 2012, at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, New Jersey 07960: Box Office: 973-971-3706; online: www.bickfordtheatre.org.
Veronica's Room by Ira Levin; directed by Daniel LaPenta