Veronica’s Room was written in 1974 by Ira Levin. The play is unique in that the all of the characters are played by only four people. However, the use of one actor for multiple was not just to add humor or to conserve on actors. Instead the story centered around the fact that all but one of the actor’s was a different person from one scene to the next. For me, the method makes the play poetic, in that things are not always as they appear.
The first act is set in the 1970s in the upstairs bedroom of a house that once belonged to a wealthy family. The care takers of the house, an Irish couple, have brought a young woman and her date to the house to see the portrait of a girl who once lived in the room. When the young woman sees the picture she notices an uncanny resemblance. The Irish couple, who noticed the resemblance when they saw the young woman at a restaurant, tell her that the girl in the portrait’s name was Veronica. They then ask her if she wouldn’t mind impersonating Veronica to appease Veronica’s mentally unstable sister who is dying of cancer. The young woman agrees, despite the anxious pestering of her boyfriend, and agrees to take on the role for a short time. She doesn’t realize that in putting on Veronica’s clothes she may actually become Veronica herself.
While the young woman changes, the old Irish Couple take her boyfriend downstairs and lock the door to the room as they leave. When the new veronica comes out of the bathroom she notices that another woman in a dark dress has come in and is dusting off some of the furniture. Upon closer inspection, the she turns out to be the same one who brought the young woman too the room in the first place. When asked by the young woman if Veronica’s sister will be coming to see her soon, the old woman grows angry. She says that she knows nothing of what the young woman is saying. Eventually the older woman tells the young one that she is calling her “father” upstairs to deal with her. The confusion only grows when the “father”, turns out to be the husband of the old Irish Woman. Together the two older people tell the young woman that she is actually Veronica. And while they originally told the young woman that Veronica was kept in her room because she had Tuberculosis, they now tell her a different story. They claim that Veronica killed her sister. When the young woman asks why Veronica would do a thing like that the older couple reply that Veronica’s sister caught her having sex with her brother. Stunned by this horrific act, the young woman goes backing to trying to convince the older couple that she is not veronica. When she refuses to accept the fact that she is veronica, they call in the doctor. The plot thickens once again, when the doctor is revealed to be the same young man that the young woman had been out on a date with. At the request of the older couple, the young man pulls out a syringe, with which to tranquilize “veronica”. However, the young woman pleads with her assailants; telling that that she will do whatever the wish and asks for their forgiveness (even though she has nothing wrong). When the older couple and the young man hear her asking for forgiveness, the old woman replies, “We don’t forgive you Veronica, we kill you!” With that statement the three hold the young woman to the bed and proceed to strangle the life from her.
The greatest surprise of the entire play comes after the deceased woman has been removed from the room. As the young man carries the young woman downstairs, the two older people join hands and sit on the end of the bed. In their conversation they reveal that the woman is actually the original Veronica and her “husband” is actually her brother.