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Eric Rawski as Ralph and Lisa Ludwig as Agnetha in Red Thread's "Frozen."
Eileen Dugan plays the mother.

Red Thread Theatre mounts Bryony Lavery’s chilling drama

When Gillian Grattan’s Fish Out of Water, a play constructed of monologues by characters whose lives are profoundly intertwined, was presented by the Irish Classical Theatre earlier this season, I recalled a number of plays written in a similar style. Among those I mentioned were Brian Friel’s Faith Healer and Molly Sweeney, Jeffrey Hatcher’s Three Viewings, and Bryony Lavery’s Frozen. A number of people particularly asked about Frozen, which I described as a haunting play about the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, spoken by the child’s mother, a serial killer, and a psychiatrist.

I had seen the New York production, which starred Laila Robins as the psychiatrist, Swoosie Kurtz as the mother, and Brian F. O’Byrne as Ralph, the unremorseful killer. After the characters are introduced in monologue, they interact, but it was the unforgettable and evocative monologues that particularly mesmerized me. Lavery works her “frozen” metaphor rather hard, and these three people are, each, emotionally frozen in some way. The play turns on the thaw of discovery.

I remember Ben Brantley’s description of Ralph in the New York Times, smiling and softly beckoning to a little girl, “Hello…; Hello…; Hello…,” throwing out the words “like a bird-lover tossing bread crumbs to pigeons,” observing that when she finally answers him, “she’s as good as dead.” The observation is terrifyingly apt but disturbingly funny.

Now, Red Thread Theatre, which exists to find plumb roles for local actors, will present the play with Eileen Dugan as the mother, Lisa Ludwig as the psychiatrist, and Eric Rawski as friendly Ralph, at the Marie Maday Theatre in Lyon’s Hall on the Canisius College campus.

This cast suggests an entirely different spin on the play from the production I saw before, directed by Doug Hughes. Swoozie Kurtz is a quirky and agile actress, known for her comic performances, who kept the audience off-guard with oddly mundane details of her life before she zeroed in on the main object of her concern. Mr. O’Byrne is a portrait of benign innocence who specializes in taking his benevolent face into treacherous places. Laila Robins is an actress who can morph her refined Eastern European looks into sophisticated comedy, smoldering sexuality, or precise intellect.

The Buffalo cast, three excellent actors with distinct personalities, reshuffles the deck and should yield some new insights and surprises under the co-direction of Eileen Dugan and Josephine Hogan. After the initial set up of monologues, the confrontations that follow are intriguing and unpredictable. Frozen will run through June 2. Call 867-3102 for tickets.