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‘Veronica’s Room’ will creep you out

Chris Ballou (from left) AmandJane Long Sean Thomas Sarah Wellingt'Veronica's Room.'

Chris Ballou (from left) Amanda Jane Long, Sean Thomas and Sarah Wellington in "Veronica's Room."

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‘VERONICA’S ROOM’

Highly recommended

When: Through Oct. 27

Where: BoHo Theatre, 7016 N. Glenwood

Tickets : $20

Info: (866) 811-4111;
BoHoTheatre.com

Run time: 85 minutes, with no intermission

Updated: October 1, 2013 7:25PM



With the exception of a few Alfred Hitchcock movies, I am pretty immune to thrillers and horror stories. More often than not they simply fail to captivate or scare me. The real world is generally far more creepy.

But the BoHo Theatre production of “Veronica’s Room,” a rarely produced work by Ira Levin (renowned as the author of “Rosemary’s Baby”), turns out to be the rare exception. It is downright terrifying. A tightly spun, 85-minute tale, played out on a tiny stage under the skillful direction of Charles Riffenburg, it deals with matters of captivity, role-playing and psychological fortitude. And it sneaks up on you, even if your initial impulse is to write it off on grounds of improbablity.

Enter the theater and you will find a wallpapered room with a small, mullioned window and furniture draped in muslin sheets. (Jameson Sanford’s set is ideal.) It is the bedroom of a New England mansion whose longtime caretakers, Maureen (Sarah Wellington) and John (Sean Thomas), retain their Irish accents.

Earlier, Maureen and John were eating in a local restaurant where they spotted Susan (Amanda Jane Long), a Boston University student, and Larry (Chris Ballou), a lawyer, who were on their first date. Maureen asked them to come to the mansion, and then, with considerable fervency, made a strange proposal to Susan.

She explains that Cissy, the last occupant of the house who was part of a troubled family, is now elderly and dying of cancer. Before Cissy dies, Maureen wants to put her heart and mind to rest by letting her know that her sister, Veronica, is no longer angry with her. More crucially, Susan just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Veronica.

Though skeptical at first, Susan is adventurous and intrigued by the chance to do a little play-acting. She also is feeling a bit thwarted by Larry, who is exceedingly uptight about touching her. So she agrees to the plan, puts on the 20-year-old Veronica’s perfectly preserved dress from the 1930s, and even begins rehearsing a bit.

Anything more I should not reveal. Suffice it to say that nothing is quite what it appears to be. And watching the story unfold you might well think about the recent real-life horror story involving three women held hostage for a decade in Ohio.

Each of the actors here is first-rate. But it is Long, who recently earned her MFA in acting at Northern Illinois University and is making an impressive Chicago stage debut, who bedazzles as she tries to maintain her humor, her sanity and her life.

Wellington brings a truly chilling edge to her role. Thomas is just malleable enough as her partner. And Ballou is ideal as a man who ... well, I’ve said enough. Just think of “Veronica’s Room” as an early Halloween treat.

Email: hweiss@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic



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