by Jenni Morin
When the life-changing tragedy of the abduction of a child happens, reality is frozen and can only resume after closure, forgiveness and time.
The Derek Berlin Productions staging of Frozen at the Overtime Theater takes on the heart-breaking task of telling the story of a mother coping with the loss of her youngest daughter, the man who kidnapped and murdered her, and a psychologist’s journey to understand the serial killer’s mind.
Bryony Lavery’s Frozen follows Agnetha (Christie Beckham) as she travels to London to interview yet another serial killer in an attempt to continue the research she started with her recently deceased colleague. Nancy (Belinda Harolds) catalogues the emotional rollercoaster of losing her daughter to a serial killer. The perpetrator and subject of Agnetha’s study is Ralph (Derek Berlin). The play covers the 21 years following Nancy’s daughter’s kidnapping, making its way through the tundra of emotions. The study of serial killers is based off of the research collected by real life psychologist Dorothy Ottnow Lewis and neurologist Jonathon Pincus.
Harolds portrays the stages of grief and gasping desperation of Nancy precisely without a single hint of undue devastation. As Agnetha, Beckham maneuvers the fine line between professionalism, wit and disorientation that seems to tear at her sanity. Berlin brings a human quality to Ralph the serial killer, bordering on pity and understanding. Just as the characters are conflicted, Agnetha’s theory comparing a killer’s evil and illness against sin and symptom leaves the audience conflicted over how to view Ralph, who is presented as calculating and disturbed yet detached and simple.
The sound design complimented the production with expertly executed queues. The bare minimum set and lighting echoed the frozen emotional wasteland each of the characters tread throughout the action of the play. This cast of impeccable actors overcame the restrictions of a barren basement-like theatre, even integrated a support beam splitting the play space, to present a raw and wrenching high quality production. Director John O’Neill proves that space and budget do not determine the quality of a production, but talented actors, directors, designers and dedicated crew make the difference.
In the program notes, producer Derek Berlin states his intention to “create an open dialogue” as he attempts to bring awareness to child abuse and abduction through this production. Berlin advocating for social change through the medium of theatre should challenge San Antonio directors, actors, designers, and theatre administration to find and highlight messages that can make a difference in our society. Frozen is a testament to the power of theatre.
On April 12-13, proceeds from the show will go to the Heidi Search Center in support of their work to assist in the recovery of missing children and adults through awareness, facilitating searches and providing community outreach programs focused on prevention.
Frozen plays at the Overtime Theater through April 27 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.theovertimetheater.org.