'Veronica's Room' by Script Tease at Landmark Community Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

A new script reading group in northwest Connecticut has produced their inaugural production thanks to Landmark Community Theatre at the Thomaston Opera House. The group that gave themselves the cheeky name Script Tease chose Ira Levin’s script of ‘Veronica’s Room’ for their very first play and presented three performances this weekend in the tiny Arts Center Theatre of the TOH.

J. Timothy Quirk described how the play came to be produced on Nutmeg Chatter. “Using the tool of Facebook to organize, members of the northwest Connecticut local community scene gathered to form “Script Tease” in May of this year,” writes Mr. Quirk. Community theatre actress Colleen Renzullo described it as a “group is a casual ‘come if you’re available’ script reading group.” Their first script reading was the play ‘Vonya, Sonia, Masha and Spike.’ Mr. Quirk adds, “The second script reading was ‘Veronica’s Room’ and the group found the play so engrossing and engaging” that members Ingrid Smith and Ms. Renzullo “decided to produce and direct the play so that a northwest Connecticut audience could experience it.”

The directors thanked Jeff Dunn and Landmark Community Theatre, Jeff Savage, and Backyard Theater Ensemble for leaving the group the bones of their last set. The pride they felt was evident on the faces of both directors during their curtain speech. Many community theatre people came out on Saturday to support the new venture, including Betsy Ingraham, Eric Wilczak, Becky Sawicki, Joao Farias, KC Rachuba, Jonathan Ross, Lana Peck and Priscilla Squiers.

The mystery/thriller by the author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ explores the thin line between fantasy and reality, madness and murder. Set in the 1970s near Boston, two college students are enticed to an old mansion by its caretakers on the premise that the young lady bears a strong resemblance to Veronica, the long-dead daughter of the family for whom they work. The older couple want her to impersonate the girl briefly to comfort Veronica’s older sister, who is near death. Once dressed in Veronica’s clothes, the young woman finds herself locked in the role and locked in Veronica’s room. Soon everyone’s role become questionable.

To call this play creepy is an understatement; under the skillful direction of Ms. Renzullo and Ms. Smith, it felt like a nightmare come to life. It is a psychological thriller that has lots of twists. I was so engrossed with trying to figure out what would come next that I didn’t really have time to be scared. The piece is perfect for the Halloween season, but not for children.

The cast of characters have generic names in the program so that the plot details are not revealed too early. Lucia Dressel played the woman and Wes Baldwin played the man. Erin Shaughnessy appeared as the girl and Ryan Wantroba was billed at the young man.

The four actors did an amazing job of allowing the audience to watch them effortlessly switch roles, but I will refrain from going into too much detail to protect the guilty. Ms. Dressel was eerily convincing as the woman who was probably the most chilling character in the play. She masterfully navigated the tricky roles along with her talented fellow cast members. The towering Mr. Baldwin was pretty scary as the man and he mastered the accents required in his roles. Ms. Shaughnessy (‘Time Stands Still’ at TheatreWorks New Milford) once again shines in this role of the frightened girl and remained onstage during intermission in character. Mr. Wantroba convincingly played the young man with some scary secrets.

Mr. Baldwin served as technical director, master carpenter and lighting designer. The period costumes were designed by the cast with some assistance from Helen Adams. The wonderful props and set painting were done by the cast and Tracy Rowe. Kate K. Luurtsema was the producer of this inaugural production by Script Tease.  I look forward to more productions from this group, perhaps a little less creepy.

 Pi ictured: (from left) Erin Shaughnessy, Lucia Dressel and Wes Baldwin in 'Veronica's Room' Photo by J. Timothy Quirk

Piictured: (from left) Erin Shaughnessy, Lucia Dressel and Wes Baldwin in 'Veronica's Room' Photo by J. Timothy Quirk