by Willard Manus
FROZEN, by Bryony Lavery, attempts to unlock the mystery of what turns an ordinary man into a serial killer of young girls. It also asks whether the mother of one of the murdered children (Agnetha, played by Deanne Dawson) can find it in herself to not only confront the killer (Ralph, played by Hugh Mason) but forgive him for what he did.
The third character in Lavery's somber but gripping play is Nancy (Jenette Goldstein), an American forensic psychiatrist who travels to England to visit and examine Ralph in jail. Using dubious scientific techniques, such as measuring the size of his skull like the phrenologists of old, she tries to come up with a rational explanation for the heinous crimes he has committed.
Lavery uses an interesting technique in FROZEN. Ralph, Agnetha and Nancy are introduced through alternating monologues which reveal character in indirect, sometimes baffling fashion. Slowly, the playwright brings them face to face, with the only three-person scene taking place at the end of the play, at which time there is a welcome burst of conflict and emotion. Until then, obliqueness is the order of the day. It makes for more of a literary than dramatic story.
That said, FROZEN is still to be recommended. It offers a relentless look into the mind of a murderer, one which manages to reveal its glints of remorse and guilt without becoming sentimental. The play is also convincingly acted and directed (by Billy Hayes) and has simple but strong production values.
FROZEN may be offbeat and upsetting, but those are exactly the qualities one hopes to find in a small-theatre offering.
Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way in Hollywood.