A woman is trapped in a room, adamant she is not Veronica, and desperate to return to her date in 1973. There doesn’t seem to be a reason not to believe her other than Veronica’s long history of manipulation and violence. In this psychological thriller, the past and present get so twisted that one can’t rely on the truth anymore.
The little green bedroom setting is impressively designed by Salar Hosseini with rotating panels and unreliable doorways. The overwhelming patterned wallpaper references the gothic horror of the Yellow Wallpaper, another story of an unwell woman. In this room, amongst unfinished beading, puzzles, and paintings Veronica (Parisa Mansuri), who swears she is Susan, is being held against her will. Her parents and captors (Shiva Mokri and Arash Salehi) explain for the upteenth time that she has committed horrible crimes and must be hidden away. Her knowledge of 1970s politics and pop culture are dismissed by the family doctor (Hamed Masteri) as delusions until she can finally admit to who she is and what she’s done.
Ira Levin’s script is wild; rapidly dipping into and out of memories uncertainly real or imagined but circling uncomfortably around the image of a young woman trapped and isolated. Direction from Ehsan Aliverdi leans heavily into the obscurity of the script with characters who address each other and the audience out of time and spectral characters who seem to represent additional simultaneous realities.
The technical design is complicated with many natural and unnatural lighting states to represent shifts between psychological states. Projections of people whispering and laughing, splattered blood, and unhinged artworks designed by Farid Masjedi and Sara Alizadeh flash like hallucinations across the set. Sound design incorporated the classic skin-crawling screech of violins with unexpected touches of didgeridoo. At the same time, surtitles translate the Farsi script for English speakers while the characters rage on.
There’s a lot going on in Veronica’s Room from the many layered identities and exploration of the psychological self and personal responsibility. Mokri and Salehi’s performances as the duplicitous parents are strong with Mokri, in particular, conveying the ambiguity of shame and hatred directed towards Veronica with interesting subtlety.
For an extended sequence in the middle of the production, when Veronica/Susan is visited by an unidentified woman, the script takes a detour towards abstract shock value that adds more to the drama than the meaning of the story. In a few instances like this, a more reserved approach to the dark and psychological aspects of the production could have opened opportunities for a deeper and more realistic examination of the human mind. But perhaps there’s something to be said for unending ambiguity.
Veronica’s Room is a technically ambitious piece that at times overrides substance with its own visuals. But as a twisting horror story of ever darker revelations, there is plenty to dwell on in Veronica’s inner depths.
Veronica’s Room is running at Flight Path Theatre from February 26th – March 1st