Monday, 24 September 2012

Veronica's Room by Ira Levin

Mention the name of Ira Levin, and most people will think of Rosemary's Baby, his stunning novel,which was turned into an equally stunning film. Many will think of The Stepford Wives, a thriller with a brilliant central idea, and a good number will mention The Boys from Brazil. Ask about his plays, and it's a racing certainty that the one to spring to mind will be the highly successful Deathtrap. Ask about his mystery fiction and a good number of folk will recall A Kiss Before Dying, a superb story with a terrific plot twist which has twice been filmed.

Very few people, I guess, will associate Levin's name with his 1973 play Veronica's Room. It was a commercial flop, although it has been revived from time to time, and it has never been filmed. Arguably, it's too unsettling to have been a commercial success. I've never seen it staged, but I've read it twice, once about thirty years ago and again the other day. Each time I was greatly impressed.

Susan, a 20 year old woman who is out on a date with a new boyfriend meets a much older couple. They are struck by her resemblance to Veronica, someone who died almost 40 years earlier, and they explain how it would be a huge benefit to a dying woman if Susan would agree briefly to impersonate the late Veronica. Susan allows herself to be persuaded.

Naturally, things take an unexpected turn. Could it be that Susan really is Veronica, and that the events of this play is taking place in the Thirties rather than the Seventies? Who is playing games with whom? The audience doesn't quite know whom to believe. The climax is quite shocking, and I can imagine that many found it a turn-off. But I rate Veronica's Room as one of the cleverest and most memorable crime plays I've ever read. I'd love to see it performed on the stage one day.

8 comments:

Maxine Clarke said...

I've seen it! I was very fond of Ira Levin's books and plays, and have read them all so far as I know/remember. Books better than some of the plays, from memory. The film Sliver started well but was a bit of a mess by the end, but with films one never knows how these messes came about - original script, direction or subsequent tinkering by the studio, etc.

J said...

My mother and I were in Boston for a few days, and saw the tryout there. She was appalled, and I was fascinated. A local community theatre company did it once, but I wasn't able to get there.

Christos G. Makrypoulias said...

It ran for two years (2010-2011) in a little theatre in Athens. I've read various reviews, which were rather mixed, ranging from "excellent" to "really bad", but most agreed it was shocking. I'm not sure if it's still on. Apparently it is too dark a play for a people who are themselves currently going through one of their darkest hours.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks for that Martin - I consider myself a Levin fan and blithely ticked off all the books, plays and movies you mentioned, right up until you got to this play and I was truly stumped. I mean, I've even seen the TV movie version of DR COOK'S GARDEN with bing Crosby but never come across this. I really will have to seek it out, thanks very much. KISS BEFORE DYING is probably my favourite, though I love the tongue-in-cheek title to his sequel to ROSEMARY'BABY, the seemingly innocuous sounding SON OF ROSEMARY

Martin Edwards said...

Maxine, you lucky thing to have seen it! I felt Sliver wasn't one of his very best, but still enjoyed the novel, not so much the film.

Martin Edwards said...

J, very interesting. To read, it is fascinating.

Martin Edwards said...

Christos, it seems to provoke strong reactions for and against. And it certainly is dark.

Martin Edwards said...

Sergio, I've never seen either Dr Cook's Garden or the Rosemary's Baby sequel, so you are ahead of me!