Frozen has an ironic title. The 1998 play about a British serial killer, the mother of one of his victims, and a New York psychiatrist who studies him is searing. While walking from her house to her grandmother's house, 10-year-old Rhona goes missing. We know she's fallen into the hands of a twitchy, brutal pedophile named Ralph (Wilson Carpenter), but her mother doesn't find out until years later, toward the end of the play. Ralph keeps Rhona in a shed, just minutes from her home, and eventually buries her in its dirt floor, along with his other child victims.
Frozen is harrowing, but playwright Bryony Lavery manages to make each character (somewhat) sympathetic and even gives them moments of unlikely comedy. The play is almost entirely built of monologues that speed through time, spanning the emotions of hours or even days in the course of minutes, instead of having a character recount past stories from the fixed point of the present. In one early monologue by the mother (Ruth McRee), we follow her from her being aggravated with her daughters for fighting over makeup to her sending Rhona to her grandmother's house to her increasing anxiety that Rhona hasn't returned.
The play is excellent, but this production by new company Gesamtkunstwerk is wobbly. Director Danielle Prados (who also plays the psychiatrist) has her actors pushing outward too hard. When one character has a panic attack, for example, she huffs and puffs and yells and slams things around—it's not the quiet desperation of a panic attack at all, and it's not some stylized, we're-making-the-inward-outward, either. It's just textbook overacting, and Frozen is riddled with it.