Las Vegas Little Theater’s ‘Veronica’s Room’ pays off after ridiculous start

Ira Levin’s "Veronica’s Room" has the sort of plot people shouldn’t reveal much about. It’s full of surprises.

But I’ll spill one major secret, since it’s obvious from the first moments what it is.

There are two elderly characters listed as "Woman" (Anita Bean) and "Man" (Erik Amblad). They’ve lured "Girl" (Carla Chiron De La Casiniere) to their home to get her to impersonate someone, for the sake of a dying family member’s peace of mind. A major turn occurs when we discover that Woman and Man are not whom they seem to be. But it’s no shock. The two performers overact their characters’ age so extremely that you figure either 1) this is community-theater acting at its worst or 2) these two characters are not whom they seem to be.

Bean, for example, walks with an exaggerated slow step, a slightly hunched back, glasses at the tip of her nose. There’s so much overstatement that you get the impression director T.J. Larsen wasn’t awake at rehearsals.

Things pick up once we get past the ridiculous first section. But Bean and Amblad never go beyond impersonation.

Chiron De La Casiniere, as the girl who stumbles into a hideous trap, underplays for much of the first act. She comes across as a film actress who doesn’t yet know how to enlarge her performance for the stage. But it’s fun to watch her as her character begins to realize the plight she’s in. The performer is the only one who doesn’t force attitude.

We keep making discoveries about who is who and why they’re doing what they’re doing. There’s the smell of murder in the air, and though it takes a while for the plot to get going, there’s plenty of payoff.

Timothy Burris’ set seems to enlarge the small playing space, and Rhona Shirley’s lights are at times entertainingly dangerous.

This isn’t an outstanding evening of theater, but Larsen puts across the author’s thinking-man’s thriller. It’s curious, though, why this talented director would make such basic mistakes. It may be that Larsen’s better at coming up with concepts than coaching actors.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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