The Cardboard Box Theatre Company at the Electric Company, 2512 SE Gladstone, 232-7667, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, $10
Veronica's Room is by Ira Levin--the brain that brought us, among others, the superb chillers Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, both '70s-era appraisals of struggling women's lib in a world of male monsters. Room utilizes a similar theme--girl against conspiracy theory--but adds multiple layers of general gender psychosis, transcending it from the genre of horror-feminist commentary to flat-out horror. The Cardboard Box Company's presentation of Room is a sublime 60 minutes of progressively horrific revelations.
To give more than a smudge of the show's plot would ruin its subsequent surprises, but I can say that Veronica's Room is one of the creepiest, well-executed dramatic horror stories I've seen. The show is set in 1973 (doesn't a horror story set in 1973 seem extra-creepy for some reason?) in a small town outside of Boston. The action takes place entirely in the antiquated bedroom of the late Veronica, a tuberculosis-plagued invalid who lived and died her short life in the 1930s. A young college girl (Kerry Silva) and her date (The Mercury 's own Justin Sanders) are lured to see the room by its caretakers, a winsome Irish couple who think she looks exactly like Veronica (creepy!). Gradually they admit that they want the young woman to dress up like Veronica, circa. 1935, and assume her identity to relieve the delusions of the dead girl's crazy, dying sister who still lives in the house (really creepy!). "Just for 15 minutes," they say, but of course, we know that won't be the case.
The cast of four, which includes Nancy Aldrich and Darius Pierce as the "woman" and "man," have mastered the material and assume their parts so completely that the audience is at their whim. When they say "boo," you'll jump. Silva's shorthaired portrayal of the archetypical college girl/victim is well-developed, thankfully avoiding the simplifications of the classic horror movie stereotype.
But the bulk of the show is undeniably dependent on the pairing of Aldrich and Pierce, whose effortless give and take amid their constantly changing roles is captivating and feels almost unrehearsed. They take the cake and steal the show, leaving us with a deliciously gross aftertaste. ANNA SIMON