This 1973 stage thriller by Ira Levin, whose better-known works include the novels Rosemary's Baby
and The Stepford Wives
and the play Deathtrap
, has a tortured setup to put its protagonist in danger of real torture. A Boston University co-ed, out on a date with a young lawyer, encounters a kindly older couple who marvel at the girl's resemblance to Veronica, a long-dead daughter of the wealthy family whose home they still care for. The couple asks the girl for an extraordinary favor: Would she come by the house and impersonate Veronica for the benefit of Veronica's still-living sister Cissie, who's dying of cancer and so lost to dementia she believes it's 1935 and Veronica is both alive and angry with her. Over the objections of her date, the girl agrees.
As with Levin's Rosemary
, you may find yourself frustrated with the girl for not catching on sooner that something is very off about the situation she's found herself in. But exactly what's wrong, and how, is so depravedly convoluted it's probably beyond anyone's ability to guess, as the couple suddenly change their demeanor and insist to the girl that she's not just playing 1935 Veronica—she is Veronica in 1935, and Veronica's circumstances are quite different than they were previously portrayed to her.
All of these hairpin turns could easily go awry if not as keenly calibrated as they are in Charles Riffenburg's confident production. Even as Levin's script stretches credulity further and further, Riffenburg and his crackerjack cast play it straight enough to keep us in as much suspense as the girl, played with chilling conviction by newcomer Amanda Jane Long; Sarah Wellington is also quite compelling as the older woman. In the cramped confines of Rogers Park's Heartland Studio, Veronica's Room is an effective, claustrophobically creepy locale.