"Veronica’s Room" at Onstage Atlanta, October 11-27, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, the backlog of my reviews will be going to the forum
Title: Twisted Twists
After a chance meeting in a restaurant, college students Susan (Savannah Jones) and Larry (Jon Vertullo) are invited to the Brabissant estate by an Irish couple (Frankie Earle and Paul Spadafora). Susan apparently looks a lot like long-dead Veronica, and they want her to impersonate Veronica for a short time, to bring some comfort to her near-death sister, whose addled mind is stuck in 1935, before Veronica’s death.
The action takes place entirely within Veronica’s bedroom, filled with white sheet-covered furniture in Angela Short’s set design. The sheets are soon removed, revealing a bed, an armoire, a bookcase, a gramophone, an easel, a table, and a desk. Cathe Hall Payne’s props bring character to the maroon-walled room, and Charlie Miller’s sound design brings the gramophone to life, while also signaling act ends with ominous music. Lighting is basic, with small adjustments as onstage lights are turned on or off.
Nancye Hilley’s costumes nicely reflect the 1973 time period of the first act and the 1935 time period of the second act, when everyone other than Susan gets to portray different characters. But are they really the same characters, peeling away levels of disguise? The twists keep coming in this short thriller (40 minutes for each of the two acts).
DeWayne Morgan stages the show to make good use of the stage, with its locking door upstage and its unlockable bathroom door upstage left. The true highlight of the staging, though, comes in Kristin Storla’s exciting fight choreography. Her intimacy coaching is effective too, although Larry isn’t one for touching, and his avoidance of Susan’s touches speaks volumes.
Mr. Morgan’s direction gets good performances out of his cast, but they’re hardly flawless. The script calls for Irish and Boston accents, but neither is very believable. The roles of the older man and woman could be tour-de-forces, but here are merely serviceable. Ms. Jones is full of sparkle and energy as Susan, devolving into a terrified victim due to the unanticipated consequences of her portrayal of Veronica. Jon Vertullo is quite good as the young men he portrays, giving them each a flavor of honesty.
"Veronica’s Room" contains all the elements of a thriller, but seems a tad wan in Onstage Atlanta’s production. Part of that is due to the shortness of the play, which doesn’t give the audience sufficient time to immerse themselves in the world of the plot. Production elements don’t thoroughly highlight the menace of the piece, and the performances of the older man and woman don’t quite rise to the demands of their role(s). This is a play whose plot is easier to admire than whose production is to delight in.