Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot is very revelatory with many shocking twists and turns. Giving away too many details would ruin the thrill of experiencing it in person. Set in 1973, the premise focuses on a young girl and man who are persuaded by an older couple they meet in a restaurant to come home with them to do them a huge favor. The older duo are caretakers for an elderly, senile woman who believes it is still 1935. They tell the couple that the younger girl bears an uncanny resemblance to the woman's dead sister Veronica, from whom she seeks forgiveness for something horrible that happened many years ago. They ask the young girl to pose as Veronica and meet with the older woman to forgive her in order to give her closure before she dies.
All of those plot elements are revealed in the first few moments of the play and what Levin does over the next 90 minutes will keep you guessing as he pulls back the curtain to reveal the deception and devious traits of the characters. Levin is crafty in how he unravels the details behind these characters' actions that eventually pit morality against depravity. He also instills his play with an abundance of intriguing mind games, much like he did with Deathtrap. While it does result in an interesting play, with so many years of TV shows such as "Criminal Minds" that focus on sick and disturbing sociopathic behavior, it isn't quite as shocking as it could be.
The cast is quite good, though. Alaina Beauloye is superb as the older woman. She navigates quite well through the wide range and multiple layers of the part, and the last few minutes of the play afford Beauloye a revelatory opportunity that she expertly plays. As the young girl, Makala Close evokes a fun sense of adventure and excitement in portraying the woman she is told she resembles. Brad Bond and Kyle Hartwick do well in portraying the men in these women's lives. Their somewhat uneven portrayals in act one are fully explained in act two. Bond is very good as this somewhat submissive man but also is very good in showing moments of strength when his character is pushed too far. Hartwick is adept at delivering a sense of mistrust when his character states his objections for the young girl to follow through on the charade of pretending to be Veronica. In the second act his delivery adds additional elements that help better understand the behavior we saw him exhibit in act one.
Director Charles St. Clair lets the pace flow naturally without rushing the revelations and also allows for a few natural moments of silence that keep the suspense high. He also never lets his cast become too broad or cross the line into melodrama which keeps the tension taught and the stakes high. Chris W. Haines' set design expertly portrays Veronica's room as it was when she passed away in the 1930s.
While Veronica's Room may be less shocking today than when it first premiered, Levin's interesting characters and fun plot twists still amount to an intriguing play. iTheatre Collaborative's convincing cast and sharp direction keep the suspense and creepiness slowly burning until the disturbing last few moments.
Veronica's Room at iTheatre Collaborative runs through October 29th, 2016, with performances downtown at the Herberger Theater Center. Information for this show and upcoming productions can also be found at www.itheatreaz.org.
Written by Ira Levin
*Member, Actors' Equity Association