"Frozen" begins with a chill, and they keep coming.
The first scene in the Falcon Theater production is of Agnetha (Angel Zachel), an Icelandic-born America-raised psychiatrist specializing in the study of serial killers, leaves her home to embark on an overseas trip to Britain to study. After saying goodbye to her furniture, she is gripped by a chill that sends her to her knees.
Her subject is Ralph (Jeremy Fischer), whose specialty is luring young girls into his shed, where he presumably rapes and certainly kills them. One of them is Rhona, a 10 year-old-girl who went missing five years before the action of the play begins. She leaves behind a mother, Nancy (Tracy M. Schoster), who as it turns out will offer forgiveness to her daughter's killer.
"Frozen" is not an easy play to watch at times. Bryony Lavery's script doesn't pull any punches in Ralph's characterization. He's a chummy enough fellow, and quite likeable at times, which makes his crimes and his psychopathy that much more frightening (so much so that at the performance I attended, one woman in the audience screamed at one of Ralph's sudden entrances).
But art should be uncomfortable sometimes. The beauty of "Frozen" is the journey of Agnetha's compassion toward her subjects and Nancy's struggle to overcome the loss of her innocent child as much as it is an exploration of the mind of a serial killer and child molestor.
The play is told largely through monolog, Ralph and Nancy's direct address to the audience and Agnetha's delivery at a symposium where she explains the effects of child abuse on brain development that could lead to the creation of a serial killer like Ralph. The characters only come together in the examination room of the prison or hospital where he is being kept, and always under the watchful, albeit indifferent, eye of a silent guard.
The three main roles are meaty ones, and the cast chew it up. There are a few rushed moments, times when they should have let the weight of their words and actions sink in, but interesting character studies and solid performances nonetheless.
My one wish for this production would be an audience. There were barely 20 people in the room last Saturday night, which makes for a more intimate experience, but Falcon Theatre is doing good, edgy, important theater here, and deserve your attention.
- Frozen runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM from April 20-May 5 at the Monmouth Theater, 636 Monmouth Street, Newport. Tickets may be purchased at falcontheatre.net and a limited amount of discounted tickets are available at goldstar.com. Tickets are $17, $15 students and seniors. For information, call 513-479-6783.