“Frozen” at Arts West

Anyone who is or has been a parent knows that the greatest fear, the most horrifying fear, is the fear that something terrible is going to happen to your child. Well, that fear is realized in “Frozen,” a taut play, so well produced here, that you’ll be mesmerized until the final words are spoken. Kudos to director Mathew Wright who has pulled it all together.

The stage is divided into three raised platforms. On each is a chair. There are three characters: Agnetha, a psychiatrist who is studying the criminal mind; Nancy, a mother whose ten-year-old daughter disappeared on the way to her nearby grandmother’s house; and Ralph a psychopath who abducts, abuses, and kills little girls.

Each is a “frozen” character. Nancy is frozen in grief. Ralph is frozen in his personality disorder, and Agnetha in her theories. We watch the thaw, such as it is. We watch three consummate actors weave a spell as tidy and strong as a spider’s web.

The acting here ranks among the best I’ve seen all year. Jonelle Jordon brings professionalism to her role as the psychiatrist who can’t help developing empathy for the murderer. She has her theories, and the main one suggests that a malfunctioning brain makes it impossible for someone like Ralph to have any guilt or sense of wrongdoing. Now that’s a concept that raises interesting moral issues!

Amy Thone personifies grief. First there’s hope her daughter is alive. Then rage comes and a deep hunger for revenge. Most of all there’s the nagging, excruciating pain that fills the space where her daughter should be. She is, of course infuriated yet at the same time unable to understand what has happened. Oh, poor tortured woman.

And then there’s Peter Crook! His is a performance of such power, subtlety and nuance that he’s spellbinding. He’s a sadistic killer with no conscience. At one point he says, “The only thing I’m sorry about is it’s not legal.” How could you not want to kill him? And yet there’s the scholar saying he can’t help himself.

If powerful, thought provoking theatre is what you want along with extraordinary acting, this show is for you.

Through May 14 at Arts West Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org.

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