Grass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams lights up Fršulein with kooky comedy; Frozen sends chills at T3

Sargeant and Daniel turn Molly and Polly into a crack comic duo. They work with the timing of skilled vaudevillians, and if they hadn't gone tongue-tied on some particularly tricky runs of repetitive dialogue, they would have earned even bigger giggles on opening night.

The faded glory of vaudeville is another theme Williams juggles in this play. The Fräulein herself is a former member of an act that included a trained seal. Her downfall came one night when she upstaged the seal by snatching a tossed fish in her own mouth, thus catching the audience, the seal and the trainer off-guard. Perhaps by the 1960s Tennessee Williams had begun to feel a bit like that seal, expected to keep up the moves of the act that had made him famous. With The Gnädiges Fräulein he dared to upstage his own reputation, baring his teeth and showing the world another side of his troubled soul.

New plays about serial killers—ugh. A few weeks ago it was the execrable Glory of Living, the violent drama by Rebecca Gilman that opened Second Thought Theatre's season. Now comes Frozen, Bryony Lavery's three-actor fugue of monologues about a serial child murderer, the mother of a victim and the psychiatrist out to prove that such killers aren't born evil but are made that way by head injuries.
Tennessee Williams' The Gnädiges Fräulein—with Beverly Jacob Daniel and Susan Sargeant—is like Waiting for Godot done by Cheech and Chong.
Tennessee Williams' The Gnädiges Fräulein—with Beverly Jacob Daniel and Susan Sargeant—is like Waiting for Godot done by Cheech and Chong.


The Gnšdiges Fršuleincontinues through November 11, at the Bath House Cultural Center, 972-504-6218.

Frozen continues through November 5, downstairs at Theatre Three, 214-871-3300.

Directed by Robin Armstrong and staged in the subterranean Theatre Too space at Theatre Three, Frozen is a feel-bad experience, first word to last. We suffer the wails and sorrows of the grief-stricken mother, played by Elizabeth Rothan, spitting out her soliloquies in the same confused British accent she applies to so many roles. We sit through the chilling confession of the sociopathic killer (Steven Pounders), who lures children into his van with an innocent "Hello?" And then there's the doctor (Jennifer Pasion), an "Icelandic-American" with issues about personal boundaries.

Frozen wants to disturb, so Lavery resorts to nasty words and graphic descriptions of sex acts. But any episode of Law & Order: SVU covers the same ground with better writing and acting and with much more skillful storytelling. The TV series also shows greater compassion for victims. Frozen seems to be begging for empathy for creeps who rape and kill kids. The mother? She gets on with life just fine after confronting the man who murdered her daughter. As contemporary drama with a spurious message, Frozen's just a dirty snow job.

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