by Josephine Cashman · August 19, 2015
Chet Siegel, Bradford Cover, Will Dagger, Helen Coxe | Michael Thomas Holmes
Verano Place written by Katie Atcheson is a painful coming of age story at times quite funny; at others more than a little distressing. The audience gets a no holds barred look at Emily’s maladjusted childhood and her self-centered parents.
It would be easy to excuse Emily’s parents with a shrug and say “it was the 70s,” but no matter what decade, Emily’s parents are shockingly selfish - and at least in one case, legitimately crazy. The 70s allow director Josh Hecht to stage the ludicrous, over-the-top mannerisms and nods to popular culture that helped define the decade. His direction of a 13 year old child forced into adulthood too soon is captivating. The sound design by Elisheba Ittoop’s is rich but threatens to overwhelm the actors onstage.
The acting, is wholly remarkable. As her parents become increasingly unhinged, Emily (Chet Siegel) finds herself fleeing her home to spend time with new friends at Verano Place, a high-rise dormitory for graduate students and their children. Her new friends Marcelle (Jessica Brown), Dobbie (William Sturdivant), and Steve (Samuel Stricklen) cleverly show us both the best and the worst of teenagers - insecure, curious and insincerely brash. Will Dagger is great as Emily’s younger bratty and wily brother, and as their sibling relationship turns parental, the comedy bleeds into anger and hurt. Helen Coxe and Bradford Cover play Emily’s parents, and the tension between them and Siegel’s Emily crackles with uncomfortable authenticity.
At almost two hours without intermission, the story becomes relentlessly darker, and the ending (without giving anything away) was too abrupt. I felt that this chapter in Emily’s story is incomplete, like a book where the last few pages are torn out. Thisbe Productions, however, should be justly pleased with Verona Place, and I look forward to seeing how the play continues to develop and grow.