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‘Frozen’: Stellar stars thaw average script

By | March 17, 2013 | News (2)
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Jacob Rico (left) and Austin Yarborough grab the audience’s attention in “Frozen.” The performance is in the Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre through March 22.

“Frozen” is not as much about the story as it is about the performances.

Set in England during the 1980s and extends through a 20-year period, “Frozen” tells the story of the kidnapping and murder of a little girl. While we never actually meet her, we do see all the circumstances that surround her disappearance and her mother’s attempt to find her.

The story is a little hard to follow at times, which is interesting when you consider that it was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in 2004.

Writer Bryony Lavery uses the technique of multiple time lines for much of Act I, but the nature of the production is too simplistic for it to come across well.

This Fresno State production is held in the Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre, which is a small black box room with 150 seats. With the exception of a bench, a few chairs and the occasional table, there is no set. It is left to the imagination of the audience to apply the scenery — though there are some sound effects to help you get by.

“Frozen” also has some interesting things to say about criminals and evil. Is evil born? Is it created? Or does it even exist?

What stands out about this production, though, are the performances. The play features a small cast with only four roles – only three of which have lines, but every actor is strong.

The standout is Austin Yarborough, who plays Ralph, a pedophile and a killer. From the moment he steps on stage, he grabs the audience’s attention and does not let go.

Ralph is terrifically slimy and loathsome. If the play works for any reason, it is because of Yarborough performance as an effective villain. He may have a bright future ahead of him.

Rhiannon Fernandez plays Nancy, the mother of the kidnapped girl. There is a lot of emotion in such a part and she plays it well. Her character has the largest arc, and she manages to hit all the necessary points.

It is really when all the actors get a chance to play off one another that the play really finds its stride. Much of the first act is told through monologues, which were well delivered, but as soon as the dialogue begins and the characters interact with one another, the pacing improves dramatically.

As good as the acting is, it does not cover up a story that is an R-rated version of “Criminal Minds” meets “Cold Case.” While it is a choice to go for the simple style of this production, it is hard not to wonder how much better it may have been with grander, more fully developed set design.

It is a story that would benefit from the Hollywood treatment.

However, for the acting alone, this is a production worth seeing. Do not let some story and style choices stop you from seeing some brilliant performances.

Fair warning, if this play were a film it would be rated R for strong language and adult situations. Total run time: 100 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission. B-

“Frozen” will be in the Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre until Friday.

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