Saturday, June 02, 2007


‘FROZEN’ at BECK is thought provoking, though talky

In recent years the Beck Center has become known for its quality productions and thought provoking script selections. ‘FROZEN’ by Bryony Lavery is another one of those stagings.

As with the company’s recent ‘EQUUS” and ‘PASSION,’ ‘FROZEN’ explores a psychological theme. In this case, the play asks, “Is it possible to forgive that which seems unforgivable -- the abduction, presumed sexual assault, and murder of one's child? And if so, what effect could that forgiveness have on the mother as well as the killer?”

Lavery explores the subject through a series of meetings which take place 25 years after the crime between the mother, the pedophilic killer, and a psychiatrist.

'’FROZEN’ was a hit in London and then New York, though the Big Apple production only played 128 regular productions. And, despite its difficult subject matter, it's the fourth-most-produced play in the country in the 2005-06 season.

Swoozie Kurtz, who played the role of the mother in the off-Broadway and Broadway productions states of the script, "When I first read this play last summer, it knocked the wind out of me. I can't imagine what it is to watch it. I've never been in a play that people say the kind of things they say about this one. It gets inside people's hearts and won't let go. I mean, this woman has survived 20 years of darkness and grief, navigating her way past the land mines.”

The play, besides the subject matter, is not without controversy. Bryony Lavery, the script’s author, has been accused of plagiarism by criminal psychiatrist, Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis and writer, Malcolm Gladwell who said that they have found at least "a dozen instances of word-for-word plagiarism in the play, as well as thematic and biographical similarities to a 1997 New Yorker profile of Dr. Lewis and a 1998 book by Dr. Lewis.” To date, there has been no resolution to the case.

Beck’s production, under the wise direction of Sarah May, has an excellent cast. Derdriu Ring as the mother (Nancy) wisely walks a tight rope of despair and depression. She does so with controlled emotions, psychiatric nonverbal reactions and total involvement in the character. This is a tour-de-force performance.

Jason Markouc is obsessive as Ralph, the pedophile. He is down-right scary in his complete emersion into the role. It is impossible to separate Markouc from Ralph.

Liz Conway does not fare as well as Ring and Markouc. Her psychiatrist is often unbelievable. Her opening scene, when she has a panic attack, is overacted and unrealistic (side note: as a crisis counselor, I know about panic attacks). She often shouts or goes into speeches with no transitions. It is hard to accept her as a credible psychiatrist.

Don McBride’s glacier/tundra setting is chilling. It develops the script’s theme of being psychologically frozen, often below our level of awareness, in subtle, yet obvious ways.

Jenniver Sparano’s costume choices are right on. This is especially true of Ring’s frumpy English up-tight early dresses, which morph into brighter colors as the character reaches outside her traditional self.

Audiences should be aware that there is harsh language and the subject matter will upset some.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Though a little talky, and sometimes feeling overly long, ‘FROZEN’ is a thought-provoking script which is given an intelligent production at Beck.