Abigail Gordiany in VERONICA’S ROOM at Melbourne Civic Theatre. Photo by Max Thorton.
By PAM HARBAUGH
Mover over Halloween Horror Nights. Melbourne Civic Theatre director Peg Girard has yet again let loose her creep-out side in what will no doubt be a spine chilling production of “Veronica’s Room.”
This is the second time Ms. Girard has directed “Veronica’s Room.” The first time was in a makeshift theater in the Palm Bay campus of Eastern Florida State College. Now, it’s at MCT where technical aspects of the show can get built into it over time and remain in place.
“This production is very different,” she said. “The space is a lot better for the show. We have more control of the environment and lighting and sound. Last time I did it was in a college auditorium. We have been able to bring the set closer and more enclosed, so you feel like you’re in the room with them.”
Before, the show was mounted in a college classroom requiring sets and lights had to be struck after the Sunday matinee to make room for classes. They were remounted on Friday before the evening’s show.
Now though, it’s gonna be total terror. Can you imagine what scenic/lighting designer Alan Selby and sound designer Wendy Reader will be able to do?
After his astounding success with the 1967 novel “Rosemary’s Baby” playwright Ira Levin had good success with the equally terrifying “Veronica’s Room.” This drama debuted on Broadway in 1973, coincidentally, in the month of October. Just in time for Halloween.
The characters in it are an older and younger couple, listed only as The Woman, The Man, The Girl and The Young Man. The couples come together as strangers but soon sinister elements arise as the older couple bring their “new friends” to their home and convince The Girl to slip into one of the dresses of a dead woman, Veronica.
Like Levin did five years later in “Deathtrap,” here he employs mind-bending plot twists which throw the audience off balance and sets the storyline careening into sheer terror.
In addition to working with a text filled with twists and turns, Girard has her design team embellishing the play with shadow-filled visuals and evocative sound.
Her cast includes Sally Contess as The Woman and Peter Olander as The Man, both of whom Girard has directed in multiple productions. Here, she says Contess has stepped into a “tour de force” role.
Mike Landau is The Young Man and Abigail Gordiany is The Girl. This is Landau’s third time being in a play.
An Orlando resident, Gordiany performed in the ensemble in MCT’s recent “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” “Veronica’s Room” is her first straight play (non-musical).
Gordiany said people are going to be “100 percent” creeped out by “Veronica’s Room.” After last week’s opening, audience members sought her out as they were leaving the theater and expressed their delight in the show’s intensity.
“They were like ‘Wow, this is a freaky show, you really scared us’,” she said. “ That was good. That was what we wanted to hear…It’s perfect for Halloween.”
Go if you dare.
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 or visit MyMCT.org.