Review: Frozen (En(Live)n Productions)

Three people’s lives intertwine in the face of a horrific crime in Frozen on stage at the Box Theatre in Toronto

En(Live)n Production's FrozenStanding in the lobby of the Box Theatre (which was essentially on the street) I was trying really hard not to reel off bad puns about being cold and waiting to see En(live)n’s production of Frozen. Needless to say I was relieved that the small theatre space was not cheap with their heating.

Frozen looks at three people’s experiences with forgiveness, remorse, and their ability to change. The characters’ lives begin to intersect when Nancy’s 10-year-old daughter disappears on her way to her grandmother’s house. Some 10 to 20 years later, we hear the story of how these characters’ lives touch. Ralph is convicted of abducting and murdering an unspecified number of children – Nancy’s daughter is one of them. Agnetha is studying serial killers.

The Box Theatre is a small to moderate size studio that had been set up in the round for Frozen. Sitting in the space we were surrounded by various objects hanging from the ceiling: old photos and video cassettes, stuffed animals, mini bottles of tequila rose, and a couple of nooses – all accented by the sounds of screaming children.

Filling up the stage space, I found the set design cluttered. Paired with the line “Welcome to our fun house” in the program, I thought that I might be in for a horror play. These thoughts did not dissipate when the first character was introduced with hard rock music followed by Agnetha screaming. Luckily, I soon forgot about the opening as the play got underway and the actors did their thing.

I was pleasantly surprised as the play started. The three leading actors, Lavetta Griffin, Lynn Zeelenberg, and Peter Nelson, had great on-stage chemistry and thoroughly embodied their roles. Their interactions with each other were genuine and thoughtful. Each of these actors were captivating and able to hold the audience’s attention. They all spoke clearly as if from the heart. It felt less like watching a play and more like watching three peoples’ stories unfold. The actors made this show work beautifully.

With such obvious attention to detail from director Andrew Freund towards the leading actors, I was confused at the lack of care given to Alexander Saridag and his portrayal of the Guard. In comparison to his fellow actors, his costume seemed unkempt and sloppy. Most noticeable were his black workman boots covered in bright neon fruit stickers. While everything else was obviously given so much thought, this was an odd choice. Given that he didn’t have any dialogue, I was confused at his character’s role – he seemed only to be moving props.

With Zeelenberg’s performance of Agnetha, I drew the impression that her character was fairly conservative and dedicated to her academic work, which made pairing her character to alternative music an unusual choice as it didn’t seem to reveal anything new about her character or story.

At the end of the play I left with questions. Good questions about how and why people forgive or change in the face of adversity. I also left pondering evil. In the play, Agnetha’s character presents a paper about serial killers. In it she has a line about the difference between sin and symptoms. Agnetha argues that serial killers are ill and are physically undeveloped in regions of the brain that account for morals and are thus not evil. I don’t know that I agree with that, but it certainly got me thinking about why I might not.

Despite not quite understanding the sound and set design choices, Frozen was well directed and excellently acted. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a play that I found both intellectually challenging and entertaining. Frozen exceeded my initial expectations and I am looking forward to En(live)n’s next production.

Details

  • Frozen is playing until April 20 at The Box Theatre (89 Niagara St.)
  • Shows run Friday to Monday at 8 pm, with an additional matinee on Sunday April 20 at 2 pm
  • Ticket prices range from $20-$25, with PWYC on Mondays and are available at the door or online.

Photo of Lavetta Griffin from En(live)n Productions 

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