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Veronica’s Room

By Josephine Yun | Posted 5/11/2005

At Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre through May 21

Attention spooksters and psych junkies: If you love being freaked out, this show’s for you. Veronica’s Room, currently in production at Spotlighters Theatre, is beyond creepy—it’s sick. After a string of young college girls vanished from the Boston area in the early 1970s, novelist Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives) wrote this play to explain the disappearances. The Spotlighters are disturbingly competent in portraying his hypothesis.

Spunky, pretty Boston University coed Susan (Elizabeth Darby) was on her second date with law student Larry (Tony Viglione, pictured) when they were approached by Maureen and John Mackey (Sherrionne Brown, pictured, and Denis Latkowski), elderly caretakers of an old Victorian a half-hour out of the city. Susan, they say, strikingly resembles Veronica, the dead daughter of their former employers. Won’t she come and see for herself?

Susan and Larry are ushered into Veronica’s room, left untouched for years. After comparing photographs and some background on the girl (she made jewelry, did puzzles, died of tuberculosis), the Mackeys implore Susan to visit Veronica’s sister Sissy. Delusional, Sissy is dying of cancer and thinks Veronica is still alive. All they want her to do, they say, is dress up as Veronica and offer Sissy some comforting words. Larry protests, skeptical. Susan waffles, but agrees to do the favor.

From there, the play escalates into a web of confrontations, cruelty, and psychological anguish. Latkowski’s Irish accent is weak compared to Brown’s, but a new toupee in the second act seems to give him more confidence. Irritable, sarcastic, and repressed, Viglione is apprehensive yet shady as Larry; later, his inner child emerges, cold and sullen. Slightly ditzy but basically sensible, Darby fills Susan’s shoes with aplomb—optimistic, newly liberated, even indignant. But it is Brown who delivers the most. Pushy and precariously sane, she is consistently edgy as Maureen before turning sadistic, victimized—frightening and frightened.

Done up in burgundy wallpaper trimmed with lace and flora, the Spotlighters’ open black box is convincingly transformed. Framed portraits and paintings crowd the walls. Covered pieces of furniture looks like misshapen ghosts, topped by a dull, cobwebbed chandelier.

Thanks to Veronica’s multitiered role-playing, don’t be surprised if you feel messed up or suspicious, unsure of what’s what, even after the cast members bow, smiling. You should have friends close by and a shrink even closer. You’ll go home and be glad to hear from telemarketers. But if you live in a Victorian, you won’t want to go home at all.

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