Frozen Sends Us Spinning on a Trip Through Grief
Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
November 8, 2013
After her daughter goes missing, a grief-stricken mother sits at a table fingering the 10-year-old’s things.
There is a souvenir from an outing and a favorite stuffed toy. Nancy chatters and fiddles — turning ordinary days and ordinary objects into stories.
There are different ways to deal with grief. You can un-quit smoking, get frisky with a fitness coach, invest in prayer flags. You can get pie-eyed on airplane booze, write a really loud email, hit send.
In Frozen, which opened Thursday at The Underground, three linked characters are stuck, or frozen, by … grief. Nancy is mourning the death of her daughter. Ralph is a remorseless serial killer with a past so painful he’s invented something different. Agnetha, a psychiatrist, is suffering through the loss of a relationship.
Would it be too much to say that playwright Byrony Lavery loads up the characters, sets the microwave for two hours and sends it spinning on defrost mode?
The story is told in short, spare vignettes. One at a time, the characters further the plot along 20 years by delivering monologues to the audience from beneath a spotlight.
When the play opens, Nancy, played by Julie Ahasay, is a harried mother with a tale of refereeing a fight between her young daughters, then sending Rhona down the street to her grandmother’s house.
Ahasay’s Nancy builds from fragile victim to empowered Type A organizer to angry and ready to stab a pedophile in the eyeball. She sometimes is so quiet in her grief she is hard to hear, but there is no mistaking the way she feels.
Each of Ahasay’s gut-punching monologues is more believable than the last and she hits the apex with a scene at the morgue where she cups her daughter’s remains.
Cory Anderson’s Ralph is seemingly just a chatty guy here to bend your ear about a wild night. It starts innocently enough – more than a handful of shots at the bar – then without changing expressions or tone, it winds its way to how he lured a young girl into his van.
At one point Ralph says: “The one thing I’m sorry about is that it’s not legal, killing girls.” Emotionally, he travels a great distance and when he gets there, Anderson’s Ralph is like a guy whose innards are being twisted by a giant fist.
When we first meet Agnetha, played by Julie MacIver Venhuizen, she is leaving New York for London to present her thesis on serial killers and forgiveness at a conference. Part of her research has included one-on-one time with Ralph.
While she’s a psychiatrist by day, McIver Venhuizen’s Agnetha has some bumbling chick-lit moments by night, gripping whisky and a cigarette and scrunching her face at the results of a drunk dial.
Agnetha by night is more convincing, and it makes it hard to imagine her as a professional.
In a show where the audience is left to imagine a lot, the sound effects come off as a bit corny. There is the cartoonish cackle of a young child that sounds like something from a hokey horror flick. Later, heavy machinery and death metal drown the characters.
Frozen is a play by Bryony Lavery that tells the story of the disappearance of a ten-year old girl, Rhona. The play follows Rhona’s mother and killer over the years that follow the incident. These two characters are linked by a psychiatrist studying the presence of mental illness in murderers. The themes of the play include emotional paralysis and forgiveness.
Each actor made their character convincing. For Cory Anderson (Ralph) the switch between an emotionless monster to suddenly feeling the weight of the emotions of all the bad things he’d done was flawless. In the beginning of the show he was very hard to understand because of his accent, which may confuse people on what the story is supposed to be about. Julie MacIver Venhuizen (Agnetha the psychiatrist) started off very strong and ended strong, but stumbled over a few words in her numerous and lengthy scientific monologs. Julie Ahasay (Rhona’s Mother) was strong throughout and by far the strongest character. When she was in the spotlight she made it feel like she actually did loose a daughter, and she was reliving the pain over again by telling the audience her story.
Frozen was done by the underground in Duluth, and their staging area was very small. For this play there was no set and just a small square black stage floor, but many props and as soon as it started the lack of a set wasn’t noticeable. The costumes that were used told the audience that this was modern day, but not where it was based. When looking at the characters it was possible to tell, not knowing what the show is about, that Ralph was most likely not a good guy because he was dressed in a all black and worn down working boots. The doctor was dressed in a fancy shirt, blazer, and dress pants from this it could be assumed that she has somewhere important to go or that she is important.
There were background sounds that went along with the show and it was possible to understand what most of them were and how they related to the show, but there were a few that just sounded like a garble of sounds. The lighting crew was phenomenal, and throughout the show they were on top of everything. When a new character stood up and walked to their spots they had them centered in the middle of the light, and when one character was finished and they wanted to change the focus to another character they beautifully faded out the first character and emerged the second one in light.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on November 8, 2013 9:21 AM.
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