Killer obsession

Perseverance second-stage play tells story of woman dealing with daughter's murderer

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2005

Actress Gina Spartz and director Terry Cramer's latest collaboration on Perseverance Theatre's second stage, "Frozen," has a lot in common with their previous project, Tony Kushner's "Homebody."

In the latter, Spartz played a housewife who developed an unhealthy obsession with Afghanistan.

In "Frozen," she plays Nancy, a mother who spends two decades coming to terms with the death of her daughter at the hands of a pedophile.

Both plays have stark sets and are mostly a series of monologues.

"I feel like I couldn't have really done this, unless I had done "Homebody," Spartz said.

Written by Bryony Lavery, "Frozen" is based on the life of psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis, who spent more than 25 years studying the behavior of serial killers and eventually wrote a memoir, "Guilty By Reason of Insanity." Lavery won London's coveted Barclay Award for best new play of 1998.

The Phoenix Room, to the left of Perseverance Theatre's front doors, will be set up in an "alley-theater" configuration - with the stage running across the middle of the space and the audience on both sides. The sets are minimal, and the story jumps quickly through 31 scenes.

Spartz assumed the play would be mostly about revenge. In fact, it's mostly about forgiveness.

While grieving Rhona, Nancy has neglected her older daughter, Iris.

"I'm learning so much more about her as I go along," Spartz said. "She is remarkable in her strength. She has an amazing capacity for hopefulness that you wouldn't really know from the beginning.

"That's the beauty of the script. She goes through one of the most horrible things any parent would have to go through, but at the end there is hopefulness you wouldn't see at the beginning. A sense of moving on."


perseverance theatre

when: 7:30 p.m. thursdays through saturdays, jan. 5-7 and jan. 12-14.

where: phoenix room, left of the theater's front doors.

admission: pay as you can.

Michael Kron, a relative novice to the stage, plays Ralph, the killer.

"For an inexperienced actor, he has great insight," Cramer said. "He doesn't seem to find it difficult."

MK McNaughton, last seen in Perseverance's production of "Wit," plays Agnetha, a psychologist who has spent years researching the behavioral patterns of serial killers.

Nancy meets Agnetha late in the play, asking her for assistance in setting up an interview with Ralph. Agnetha turns her down, but Nancy is able to pull strings and arrange the meeting.

"When they first meet, Nancy is not in a good place in her life," Spartz said. "She is not able to accept everything in terms of the death of her daughter and what she needs to do with her life. By the end of the play, the two of them have reached a real interesting understanding, and eventually they become friends."

Cramer said she wanted to direct "Frozen" because of its focus on emotions.

"This play is really about the emotional journey of these characters," she said.

"Frozen" created a small firestorm in the press when it was released. Lewis believed much of the play was stolen verbatim from her book. Malcom Gladwell, a New Yorker writer who profiled Lewis, claimed that sections of "Frozen" were plagiarized from his article.

Gladwell's profile helped Spartz prepare for the role.

"It really helped to understand part of the killer's mind," she said. "How it functions, and how it's not functioning."

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