Director Josh Morrison (who directed last season's Wittenberg), acknowledges that Veronica's Room is a different type of play for Stages Repertory Theatre to do, and one that he expects will "get some screams and gasps" from the audience.
"There's twists and turns and a definite theatricality to the piece," he says.
It's 1973 and a young couple on a date goes out to dinner where an older man and woman talk them into following them home to meet the family. Well the family is missing a few members, actually. Conrad died in WWII and sister Veronica passed away of tuberculosis. Trouble is, the remaining sibling, Cissie, is suffering from dementia and thinks Veronica is still alive.
The caregivers, Maureen and John Mackey, want the young woman Susan, who resembles Veronica, to dress up like her and tell her sister that she doesn't blame her for her death.
What ensues is a psychological thriller, the little-performed and third-part of the Ira Levin trilogy started with The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby and which Stages Repertory Theatre has selected as its season opener.
Another major theme of this play (which had a short run on Broadway) concerns the role of females in American society at the height of the women's liberation movement - a recurring theme for Levin, who died in 2007, Morrison says.
Morrison, a graduate of the University of Houston, did Levin's Deathtrap when he was at college and finds this play fun and interesting even as it goes into some "pretty dark places."
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When the staff met to select plays for the 2013-14 season, Morrison says this one appealed to them, especially timed as it is to be near Halloween. Another reason was the great audience reception they got to Language Archives and Wittenberg last year, both of which had, well, a lot of talking in them.
Morridon says he and his actors (Stages favorites Sally Edmundson and James Belcher will star along with Teresa Zimmermann and Dwight Clark) are working to unfold the play in just the right way. "We don't want the audience to get ahead of us." Half the fun of seeing a play like this is to figure out what is really going on, Morrison says, but the actors' job is to keep the suspense going until the final moments of the two-hour performance.
As an added attraction, Stages will once again be hosting an artist's exhibition with works connected to the theme of the play, Morrison says. Artist Robert Dampier will be displaying his "steam punk horror art" out in the lobby.
Veronica's Room runs October 9 through November 3, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For inforamtion call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $19-$54.