Veronica’s Room

Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Feb. 28

The biggest mistake made in Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Ira Levin’s Veronica’s Room is the intermission. The good stuff’s all in the second act and starts almost immediately after the curtain goes up, but the first act is mostly lighthearted exposition. Levin himself wrote that the play could be performed without an intermission, and in this production everything grinds to a halt right before it gets interesting.

How it gets interesting is something that’s difficult to relate without giving away the many twists and turns. Suffice to say, there’s a reason Levin is best known for writing Rosemary’s Baby and Deathtrap, which RLT performed last season. This is the sort of story where no one’s quite who they seem, three or four times over.

The setup is quite simple: A young woman (Sarah Bousquet) and her date (Derek Taylor) have been invited by an elderly couple (Christine Rogers and Phil Lewis) to a mansion, where the girl will briefly impersonate Veronica, the long-dead sister of the house’s owner. Apparently, she wasted away in her room from tuberculosis, and the senile old woman thinks she’s still alive.

If you think this isn’t going to go well, you’re right.

That’s the first act; the second act turns into a massive mind game that rapidly takes a turn into V.C. Andrews territory. We’ll just report that the revelations that come out are 12 kinds of wrong, though very little of it makes sense if you think too carefully.

This is straight-ahead lunacyand while the first act is mostly bad 1970s costumes and worse Boston accents (the couple sitting next to me, who were from Boston, said this “wasn’t even close”), the second act has a weird sort of bloodless Grand Guignol resolution. Rogers has the meatiest role in the castthough we can’t say how!and sinks her teeth into the increasingly insane revelations.

Not for the faint of heart, Veronica’s Room is a nicely campy piece of melodrama that will leave you shaken. Just make sure you stay around after the intermission.