Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Also see Kevin's review of Of Thee I Sing
Frozen received its New York premiere at Manhattan Class Company Theatre in February of this year. Two months later, it transferred to Broadway via Circle in the Square. The play earned a Tony Award for best featured actor (Brían F. O'Byrne). The setting is present day England where three people are spotlighted: Agnetha, an American criminal psychologist, who is about to go abroad to give a seminar; Nancy, a housewife lamenting her young daughter being missing; and Ralph, a loner who has an affection for young girls. The script begins in monologues, each person showing his or her side of the story; then we see each person's story intertwined as they connect with one another.
Lavery's story is a potent one. In each character we see a sadness and a joy, so they are beyond one-dimensional. Ralph, who has been convicted of killing Nancy's 15-year old daughter Rhona, was brutally abused as a child. Agnetha, even though she's a controlled profiler, has nervous fits of rage and depression. Nancy, the true victim in all of this, is the mother whose child has been ripped from her. At first, Nancy is angry and wants revenge. But thanks in part to her older daughter, she finally faces Ralph. Confrontation is inevitable, leading up to a chilling conclusion.
Jeff Quinn's set is remarkably structured to represent three sides: Rhona's room is stage right, the jail is center, and Agnetha's apartment / jail waiting room is stage left. The monologues may happen in these three parts, but thanks to Quinn's lighting skills, the interaction takes place center stage and is brilliantly designed that way.
Now in his seventh year as Producing Artistic Director, Joseph Adler chooses material that is engaging and provocative, not only in its premise but in its depth as well. Adler scores again with Frozen by using players who not only understand the script, but are able to step up to the task by giving us excellent performances.
Lisa Morgan shines as Nancy. Through Morgan, Nancy is not fragile or weak. Morgan gives us Nancy as a fearless person, who is ready to face her child's killer at any cost. We see the emotions running through her mind: pain, fear, anger, hatred and acceptance. Morgan aces each motion and hits dead on in her choices.
Bridget Connors is riding a hot streak as of late. From trailer housewife in New Theatre's White People to religious acolyte in Wait in See, Connors has built the quintessential character acting resume, and Agnetha is her best role yet. Agnetha is clever and cocksure in one stroke, wimpy and whiny the next. Connors gives the physical presence of a person who not only doesn't know what she wants, but doesn't really know who she is either.
Gordon McConnell gives the performance that controls the room so much so, that tour-de-force is an understatement. McConnell doesn't play Ralph as a psychotic killer or a cardboard villain. He delves deep into Ralph as a man who wants nothing more than affection and love - something he never got from his parents. Each tick and facial expression shows that McConnell is in the driver's seat as he performs. It is an outstanding feat.
The person who really needs focus is Bryony Lavery, now wrapped in a quandary of her own. Lavery is being accused of plagiarism by two people who claim that she stole the story from their thesis. We hope this predicament gets resolved soon, because no matter the outcome, Frozen is a story that needs to continue to be told.
Frozen continues through November 7th at GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Avenue in Coral Gables. For tickets, please call (305) 445-1119 or visit their website: www.gablestage.org.
GABLESTAGE - Frozen
Cast: Bridget Connors, Lisa Morgan, Gordon McConnell, and George Schiavone
Set & Lighting: Jeff Quinn
Directed by Joseph Adler
-- Kevin Johnson