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Veronica's Room worth seeing for its craftsmanship

VERONICA'S ROOM

By Ira Levin.

Directed by Lila Stromer.

Kresge Little Theatre

Nov. 15-17, 21-23, 8 pm.

By NIC KELMAN

THIS PRESENTATION OF IRA LEVIN'S early '80s creation by the MIT Community Players is definitely worth seeing for its quality of craftsmanship. Director Lila Stromer has obviously put an enormous amount of thought into exactly how to present this characteristically complex Levin play. Levin is always difficult to direct as, frequently, his characters are not at all who they appear to be during at least the first half of the story. Veronica's Room is no exception, and all the convolutions one expects from Levin -- author of Deathtrap, Rosemary's Baby, and A Kiss Before Dying -- are present. This means the director must get her actors to act as if they are acting for a large part of the production. It is exactly this feat that Stromer has carried off so well -- with the actors' help, of course. For the first half of the play, it is all too painfully obvious precisely how much woman (Cheryl Dedora), man (Andrew Oliver) and young man (Timothy Tavano) seem to be overacting. However, in the second half it becomes apparent that this was intentional as we realize that it was a way of representing the characters themselves playing roles.

Beyond this control of her actors, Stromer creates other thoughtful and useful additions to the script. Her blocking is superb and the direction of non-focal characters on stage is nicely visible. Furthermore, she produces a nice innovation before each half -- listen to the difference in the period of the music being played.

However, the credit for the entertainment does not belong exclusively to Stromer. As mentioned already, she could not have accomplished what she did without the aid of the acting talent in the production. The talent seems to be evenly distributed among the cast, and no one of the four players outshines the others. Though this is true about the overall performances, there is a definite variation between halves. In the first half, Cheryl Dedora and Girl (Barbara Kanady) are the most captivating, but this wanes in the second half as their efforts become almost tiresome. Likewise, Andrew Oliver and Timothy Tavano do not appear quite capable of coping with the play-within-a-play requirements of the first half, but then perform admirably in the second half, shifting the focus from the women of the troupe. Had the men been more subdued in the first half and the women more varied in the second, the performances in Veronica's Room would have been truly first class.

Recognition is also due to the set designer, John Savage. He decided to go with a realistic set, the only sensible choice for a play written as purely for entertainment as Levin's plays are. However, it is his execution of this set that requires special mention. He has hung three doors from his set -- one of which actually locks -- and a pair of heavy shutters. The significance of this to those who have never built a set may not be apparent. Hanging anything as heavy as a door from a set requires very careful design of both the walls of the set and its supporting struts if the set is not to collapse when in use. This move on Savage's part, while necessary for the story, was nevertheless very courageous.

It is a shame, given the above, that the lighting was not designed with more careful attention to ambience. Kathleen Maloney's design is too harsh and too stark to complete the mood produced by the production's other elements.

Veronica's Room is definitely worth seeing for an evening's light entertainment. The play, while by no means Levin's best, is still definitive Levin and provides the complexity of a good story without the complexity of deeper issues, as his fans have come to expect. On top of this, the production is more than competent and executes the script with charming and appropriate theatricality. Overall, the play's elements come together nicely to make what is, essentially, a very good production.