No saints need apply

Freeze! A Comedy of Bad Manners

By Arch Brown
Directed by Francine L. Trevens
The Glines
Thirtieth Street Theater
259 West 30th Street (802-8509)
Non-union production (closes Oct. 25)
Review by Steve Gold

This play is subtitled "A Comedy of Bad Manners." They're not kidding, either; the amount of tawdry behavior on display, or implied, in Freeze! is enough to give mankind a bad name-not to mention every other species of primate.

The setting is a remote cabin near the Canadian border. Paul Perrigon (Kevin Tiernan) and his adopted teenage son Phillip (Chad Beckim) have rented the place for the summer. Paul is a haughty real-estate honcho and part-time college instructor; his son is a snotty wiseguy.

Soon after their arrival, a nasty ice storm occurs, resulting in the appearance of Gordie (Thomas F. Walsh), a dumb far-right-wing homophobe, and his ostensibly pristine teenage daughter, Virgie (Lindsey Lofaso); they've had a road accident and thus seek temporary shelter. Into this mix is added Harm Helborn (Phillipe Lu Leong), a vicious punk who invades the premises and holds the inhabitants hostage. Having just robbed a convenience store and killed its clerk, he is understandably nervous.

Along the way, the various relationships are fleshed out with humor, and occasional pathos, by the author. There are intimations of incest, drug abuse, and alcoholism; and there's an instance of flashing by one of the male characters. The play's denouement will not be revealed; suffice it to say that it contains a certain degree of poetic justice.

Between several of the scenes, a narrator (nora hummel) is on hand to comment on the proceedings. Her appearance is unnecessary: what she offers are coy, folksy, and digressive monologues in which both events and characters are analyzed ad nauseum, as if the audience could not figure things out for themselves. The high quality of the scenes is evidence itself of the author's story-telling abilities; hence the narrator's superfluous presence.

Francine L. Trevens directed her performers in a broad, fast-paced comic style befitting the material.

Ms. hummel was a standout in several smaller roles, most amusingly as a butch, quick-witted police officer, and as Lyla, Phillip's drunken trollop of a mother, who pays a visit late in the play. Mr. Leong, as the thug, was simultaneously goofy and frightening. Ms. Lofaso did nice work as the wide-eyed, if somewhat weird, teenager. The rapport established between Mr. Tiernan and Mr. Beckim, as the father and son, was mostly persuasive, and Mr. Walsh offered some intermittently funny moments as Virgie's dim-witted daddy. The combination bedroom/living room set, by Leon Munier, was splendid. Paul Jones's lighting, a key element of this production, was very good indeed. Mr. Munier also provided witty costumes.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting: 2/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 Steve Gold