Tackling sensitive subject matter such as kidnapping, child molestation and serial killing, Chelsea S. Smith chose to direct the play “Frozen” for her Senior Platform Project. Written by Bryony Lavery, the plot centers around a grieving mother who has lost her 10-year-old daughter, a psychologist working on a neurological study of serial killers and a man who has murdered several children.
Described as “a drama about fire and ice,” the small production demanded strong performances from all involved. Playing the role of Nancy Shirley, the mother whose daughter was kidnapped, molested and killed, Natasha Hoffman maneuvered her way around the difficult emotions of grief, anger and hatred. Though her British accent was tricky to understand at the opening of the performance, she smoothed out her diction and was able to convey the heartache any grieving mother would feel. In one particular scene, Hoffman, alone on the stage, gave a monologue to the audience relating her struggle with the idea of forgiving the man who killed her daughter. Her raw emotion left audience members sniffing back tears.
In a performance that was nearly void of honest emotion, Jessamyn Svensson, playing the role of psychologist Agnetha Gottmundsdottir, left confusion as to the character’s inner life. While the plot reveals Gottmundsdottir’s affair with her former colleague, it was hard to imagine since Svensson’s performance did not reveal a woman capable of such passions. Svensson’s execution would be better equated with a ball of nervous energy that marred the stage and distracted audience members from the story because of the anxiety they inadvertently felt.
Challenged with perhaps the most difficult role, Robbie X. Pierce portrayed Ralph Wantage, a child-molesting serial killer. Pierce gave a controlled performance, portraying Wantage with methodical precision. Emoting with his entire being, Pierce hinted at the evil that was latent in his character. On occasion, he would release a barrage of profanity and vulgarity that shocked and unsettled the audience. Without Pierce’s dynamic performance, “Frozen” would not have embodied the eerie, unsettled quality that made it so compelling.
Overall, “Frozen” was an ambitious attempt for a senior project and for the student actors. Though some parts were blasé, most of the performance held the audience hostage in a disturbing grip that, even after the lights fell, lingered on their minds.