Regional Reviews: Chicago
Also see John's review of The Boys in the Band
MadKap Productions, the resident company at the Skokie Theatre, is performing Veronica's Room through March 1. To direct, they've enlisted the Joseph Jefferson Award-winning Stephen M. Genovese, best known for bringing Broadway musicals to the postage-stamp stage at the Heartland Theatre when he served as artistic director of the BoHo Theatre. Lately he's taken on challenging dramatic works and still has an audience on the edge of their seats from curtain to close.
Veronica's Room could happen anywhere at anytime, but the script says that it's set in 1974, a time when people prided themselves on how self-aware they were. Everyone was in therapy or studying yoga or some form of meditation. Women were liberated and men were encouraged to cry. We were more sensitive or at least that's what the popular literature seemed to indicate; and the concepts of relationships and marriage were changing radically.
One night in a town about a half hour's drive from Boston, a Man (Layke Fowler) and a Woman (Katie O'Neill) go out on a date to a lovely seafood restaurant. While they're dining, an elderly Irish couple (Nord Versocasa and Mavis Slaby), come up to the Woman and tell her that she bears a striking resemblance to Veronica, a woman who lived in the house where they are caretakers. They charm her into agreeing to come home with them to tell her surviving sister, Cissy, that she is Veronica and she forgives her. They tell her that Cissy has not left the house since 1935 and she suffers from dementia. When she hears that she is forgiven, she will be at peace with herself. The Woman thinks they're so cute she can't resist, and lets them lead her into a room that has not been touched in a very long time. They have to remove sheets from all the furniture.
The Man, an attorney, is skeptical and doesn't think the Woman should go through with this charade. But she gets into character when she's given some of Veronica's clothes and the old Irish woman does her hair. She's left alone to rehearse and prepare to meet Cissy, believing that her date is downstairs and in a few minutes she'll be back in her own clothes and they'll finish their evening together. However, when the older woman comes back, she is no longer a little old Irish woman. She looks completely different (Maryann Carlson) and tells her in a distinctly Boston accent to get ready for bed and drink her milk. Frantic, she calls out to her date but he is not listening. He comes back without his mustache and acts as if he has no idea who she is. The old Irish man has disappeared as well and is replaced by a younger and tougher person (North Rory Homeward). She pounds on the door, kicks and screams, and begs that they stick to the script.
They were such a charming couple. And those brogues were so endearing. Her date seemed so level-headed and good looking. They reinvent themselves before her eyes and she winds up in a twisted maze with no escape hatch. Mavis Slaby and Nord Versocasa are ruthless as they hold an unsuspecting dupe prisoner. Katie O'Neill is well cast as the innocent, trusting young Woman who sees nothing but the best in people. Layke Fowler as the Young Man seems to have a foot on either side, creating a reasonable doubt in his date who lets good manners and respect for her elders stifle her gut feelings.
Veronica's Room is a black-comic cruel musing on trust. The Young Woman is on a first date. She wants to fall in love and get married but sees a few things about the guy she's with that indicate he may not be Prince Charming. She decides not to pay attention and go ahead and trust him and everyone around him. It's a warning to pay attention to those nuances that can't be ignored.
Veronica's Room, runs through March 1, 2020, at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 N. Lincoln Avenue in Downtown Skokie IL. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $38 general admission, $34 for seniors and students. For tickets and information, please visit SkokieTheatre.org or call 847-677-7761.
Directed by Stephen M. Genovese, starring Maryann Carlson, Layke Fowler, North Homeward and Katie O'Neill. Scenic design by Stephen M. Genovese. Costumes design by Wendy Kaplan.