Abigail Gordiany in VERONICA’S ROOM at Melbourne Civic Theatre. Photo by Max Thorton.
By KEENAN CARVER
Brevard Culture Theatre Critic
After opening their season with the farce musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, Melbourne Civic Theatre offers the super-suspenseful “Veronica’s Room”, a spooky show just in time for the spooky season. The thriller comes from the mind of Ira Levin, best known for spine-tingling pieces like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Deathtrap.”
The storyline pulls you in with what feels innocent, but after a few climactic plot revelations, becomes grossly sinister. Susan, a naive Boston college student in 1973, can tell you that best.
A drawback with Levin’s script is that it takes an entire first act to divulge the backstory, which of course happens before the curtain rises.
That backstory goes as such: On a first date, an older couple, the Mackeys, request help from a young couple named Susan and Larry. The Mackeys tell the couple they are longtime caretakers of the nearby Brabissant estate and the surviving Brabissant heir, Cissy.
Wait, the backstory continues: The older couple has told Susan that she strikes an uncanny resemblance to Cissy’s sister, the late Veronica Brabissant and have convinced her to impersonate Veronica for a quick conversation with Cissy, hopefully bringing her peace of mind.
Then, an entire first act is used to introduce the conflict. So it’s essential to stay captivated by the actors in order to receive vital information potent enough to wrap your head around the conclusion. And for the most part, the ensemble is strong.
As The Woman, Sally Contess bewitches with energy and clear storytelling. Admittedly, she is no stranger to the MCT stage, and her stage confidence radiates, which is mostly showcased within the final moments of the show. Peter Olander, The Man, a great scene partner, makes superb character choices heightening his performance. He and Contess craft distinct and bright characters.
Like Contess and Olander, Mike Landau delivers complex stage work. Larry is a “straight” character, theater talk for a role without much depth written into the text. He may start out too reserved but he delivers more energy and interest as the plot progresses.
Being on stage with veterans, one must bring their “A” game when it comes to characterization and overall stage presence. While Abigail Gordiany’s performance was sweet, bubbly, and charming, it is a stark contrast to the hippie, “free love” nature that suggests itself in Susan’s lines. The wonderful costuming (Janine Black and Peg Girard) indicates Susan’s sense of adventure, but it does not play out in Gordiany’s portrayal, which comes off mostly as “ditzy.” It is a major missing component in understanding how Susan landed in this predicament.
Modeled to represent a 1930’s top floor bedroom, the set (Alan Selby) is inviting. It starts covered in ghostly white sheets, and when uncovered in its entirety, Veronica’s bedroom is revealed as quaint and meticulously detailed with a view of the bathroom inside the room, and the hallway just outside the bedroom door exit.
This is classic psychological horror. Your mind will spin analyzing this piece. We see everything utterly wrong with Susan’s decision play out on stage from the start. Without spoilers, I can safely tell you the set up to the plot, but what takes place inside of “Veronica’s Room” is horrifying enough to haunt you.
Kudos to MCT for mounting, under the taut direction of Peg Girard, an energetic show and excellent production. It runs for a couple more weekends until November 11.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Veronica’s Room” runs through Nov. 11 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Tickets are $29 and $31. Call 321-723-6935 visit MyMCT.org. or click on their ad.