Frozen By Bryony Lavery
Directed by John DiDonna
Empty Spaces Theatre Company
At the Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL
Under English common law, the insane may not be convicted of a crime. However, in some cases they really shouldn’t be allowed to wander about like Ralph Ian Wantge (Keith Kirkwood). The use of a middle name might be prejudicial (Lee Harvey Oswald or John Wayne Gacy come to mind) but it’s the one thing that makes him distinctive. From his “Base of Operations” Wantge wanders the British country side abducting and murdering young girls and buying expensive Danish kiddy porn. With no visible means of support he keeps this hobby going for 20 years until he’s tripped up by tattoos and overly meticulous gasoline receipts. Dr. Agnetha Gottmundsdottir (Elizabeth Dean) specializes in cases like this, and demonstrates to my satisfaction that Wantge is seriously brain damaged and technically not responsible for his actions. I’m also convinced of the hatred he engenders in the mother of a random victim, Nancy Shirley (Marty Stonerock).
Both Kirkwood’s precise creepiness and Stonerock’s gut wrench rage operate under heavy yet fluent accents. We learn new and quaint Britishisms like “a cup of drinking chocolate” or “my bits and bobs drawer”, and a dangerous amount of knowledge of neurology and experimental psychological methods. Dean breezes through the technical lectures, and finds a sympathetic patient in Kirkwood’s obsession – “Too bad it’s illegal to kill girls” he muses yet she still hugs him at the end of the show. Dr. A’s journey is most believable, even as her thesis condemns her sins more severely than Ian’s. “Don’t confuse sin with symptom” is a catchy phase and it leads us to a conundrum in modern Western jurisprudence – just because you committed the crime doesn’t mean it’s legally right to lock you up. This hard nugget is left on stage with no good answer offered, leading to what I find as the best part of the theatrical experience – the heated philosophical debate on the ride home. Director DiDonna and his supporting collaborators do what they do best: take morally repugnant stories and push them until they make you think – hard.
For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit http://www.emptyspacestheatre.org