note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
“Trinity Rep’s production of “Veronica Meadows” has a great many laughs along the way, but ends up dark without its accompanying humor and it may perplex audience members along the way. The acting in the production is excellent throughout. Trinity Rep company member Stephen Thorne, who also had his play, “The Completely Fictional—Utterly True—Final Strange Tale of Edgar Allen Poe” produced there in 2011 authored this piece which finds its inspirations in the girl detective novels started in the 1930’s like Nancy Drew.
The story unfolds about Veronica Meadows, a teenage detective who with her best friend Ginny Balderston solves more mysteries than you can imagine and garners the lavish praise of the town and collects untold plaques from the mayor in sincere gratitude for their achievement. It all begin with considerable humor and a darker note running inside it, but as the play evolves the humor grows less and the grim note overtake the play. Veronica and her best friend gradually find that nothing changes but them— “Things never seem to change,” Veronica tells her pal Ginny, “except us. We’ve changed, haven’t we?” Things do change for Veronica and her friend as time passes. But they change from perky and smart girls detectives into adults, replaced by younger versions of themselves, who take over crime solving while they lapse into banal adulthood, Veronica taking a drab job in an insurances company and getting married while here loving grandfather grows more feeble and senile. Thorne manages to warp time, contort it and twist it. At one point Ginny, who still believes she is a high school student is told she is too old to take a geometry test is sent home to her dismay.
Angela Brazil is Veronica Meadows, teenage sleuth extraordinaire. As a young sleuth she is perky, self confidant and smart, able to take her endless kudos in her stride, downplaying them and the importance the town gives them. When she transforms into a woman, she is at a loss, perplexed by the confusing shifts in her life, suddenly finding herself grown up, in a banal job, with a husband and the endless parade of girl sleuths who have replaced her in the town’s affections. Brazil is delightful in the role, full of energy and sincerity. She aptly conveys the probing innocence of the girl sleuth and the confusion and dismay of her older, adult self.
Jennifer Laine Williams is her best friend and so sleuth, Ginny Balderston. Ginny is a loyal friend, inseparable from Veronica in the teenage years, always there when waned and needed, even if she is a bit goofy and always manages to forget to bring her flashlight along on a case. Williams has the role down perfectly, being daffy and fun as a teenage sleuth and then, more confused and at a loss as her adult self.
Brian McEleney is her grandfather, pops. He is fragile and faltering at a loss for everything except his love and admiration for his granddaughter. McEleney is excellent, nailing the doddering old man thing with skill and wit. He also is on the mark as a gruff and ruthless man who threatens Veronica.
Fred Sullivan Jr. is a riot as Veronica’s tipsy colleague Leslie Caruthers. He also appears as a mysterious government agent when Veronica grows older who drifts in and out of her life with a sinister presence and an often ominous demeanor. He is terrific in that role as well, bringing a just under the surface menace to it all with skill and finesse.
Phyllis Kay is Barbara Bowdoin, Veronica’s hard drinking boss with a condescending attitude an little patience with her underlings. It isaa wonderful performance, full of energy and attitude.
Rounding out the cast is Joe Wilson Jr. who plays multiple roles with distinction and considerable skill. He is first a reluctant wannabe murderer, then Bobby a wannabe boyfriend for Ginny, then Peter, Veronica’s husband and then a dark, nefarious man. He manages this with skill as he shifts between the different characters with finesse and very distinct creations for each.
Director Michael Perlman keeps it all moving along with a sense of pace and dexterity. The set by Patrick Lynch is excellent with foliage and furniture mixing well together and multilevel. The Olivera Gajic costumes create a sense of period, a time long past, without being totally specific.
“Veronica Meadows” rolls merrily along asking questions about life, how we get from point A to point B and what happens to us in between. It can be a run ride which shifts beyond its farcical leanings to grim and darker at the end.
Veronica Meadows” runs through May 4 at Trinity Rep, 201 Washington St., Providence. Tickets are $28-$68. Call (401) 351-4242, or visit trinityrep.com.