Book Report: Veronica's Room
12 May 2009, 4:55 PM
So, here’s the plot of Ira Levin’s play Veronica’s Room: it’s 1972 or so, the present day of when it was written, and a young couple has been brought into a room that has been preserved from the 1930s, the furniture draped with sheets and the clothes kept meticulously clean, etc, etc. The middle-aged couple who have brought them there say that Veronica, who used to live in that room, died of consumption, and that the young woman, Susan, looks ever so much like her. They persuade her to dress in Veronica’s clothes and pretend to be Veronica for a brief period, for moderately plausible reasons.
That’s Act One.
In Act Two, the older couple claim that the young woman is Veronica, that it is 1937 (or whatever), and accuse her of incest, murder and madness. She, of course, claims that it’s the 1970s and she is Susan, all the stuff we saw in Act One. The young man who was her date in Act One is now a doctor who confirms the older couple’s accusations, and threatens to inject her from a hypodermic. The young woman, broken, confesses to being Veronica, and confesses to all the crimes and sins they accuse her of.
Then they kill her.
Then it turns out that the middle-aged woman really is Veronica, that she is guilty of all those things, and so on and so forth; the play ends with her locked in the room alone while the young fellow goes off to rape the corpse and the older fellow, well, we don’t really care, do we?
This is a really disgusting play, and I felt throughout that it was not so much the characters abusing poor Susan but Mr. Levin forcing an actress through it. There was nothing edifying about it; the abuse served no purpose other than titillation.
And it’s very well-written. Mr. Levin builds suspense extremely well; we spend much of the first act knowing that something is going to go wrong, but not sure what. Then Act Two begins with horror and then keeps turning the screw; several times I thought that it couldn’t get any more horrible, and it did. The pacing, the characterization and some of the details of the staging (insofar as those were written into the playscript) were all working effectively toward the goal of giving me the creeps. They were creepy creeps, and I can’t see anything admirable in it, but he sure is good at the thing he’s good at.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,