En(live)n Productions. FROZEN. (4 stars).
Although this play has closed, it does deserve mention. Director Andrew Freund put together an imaginative production that illuminated Bryony Lavery’s fascinating script. Lavery is one of the strongest voices in British Theatre today. She’s not only provocative, she’s subversive, slipping in ideas akin to putting a fox in the hen coop.
In Frozen (1998), the plot concerns the research by the American psychiatrist Agnetha (Lynn Zeelenberg) that serial killing is a forgivable act because it has a physical cause, a neuropsychiatric deformity in the frontal lobe of the brain. This fact is cold comfort to Nancy (Lavetta Griffin) whose 10-year-old daughter was murdered by Ralph (Peter Nelson). Nancy’s life was totally destroyed by the loss of her daughter. The play slips between monologues and encounters – the psychiatrist and Ralph, the psychiatrist and the mother, the mother and Ralph. All the while, the question of illness versus evil cocoons the characters, particularly because both Nancy and Ralph are victims (if one believes Agnetha in the case of Ralph).
At times Griffin and Nelson spoke too quickly so that their heavy English accents obscured words. Nonetheless, Freund’s concentration on drawing out character made for penetrating reality. Natalia Tcherniak’s inspired set was comprised of props hanging from the ceiling which the cast accessed as needed. With the seating in the round, the audience was part of the show as the actors passed through us and around us. The venue was a new theatre with lots of potential called The Box, a rectangular concrete room in what was a former coffin factory. All told, this production was a total experience which actively engaged the audience.
As a side note, references were included in the program to access the research on violence and the brain. This symptom versus sin is not, however, what a crime and punishment society wants to hear.
Frozen, written by Bryony Lavery, directed by Andrew Freund, The Box Toronto Studio and Theatre, Apr. 1 to 20, 2014.