It's an important question when you're standing on a lake of ice: Exactly how far, and how deep, does the freeze extend? Playwright Bryony Lavery's controversial 2004 drama opening at REP this week suggests that the same issue arises, and with similar impact, when it comes to our responses to the unrepentant perpetrators of violent crime, the proverbial worst of the worst.
A series of medical studies in the late 1980s and early 2000s showed that almost all death row inmates surveyed had experienced some degree of traumatic brain injury, brain impairment or mental illness. Contrary to the myth in which the condemned supposedly try to fake mental illness to avoid punishment, most of those subjects didn't consider themselves sick; most either did not seek or resisted any such diagnosis.
And yet, when a 10-year-old girl is murdered in Lavery's gripping drama, it isn't just her mother, Nancy, who becomes frozen in the grip of grief. A forensic psychiatrist becomes convinced that the entire society fundamentally freezes as well, when confronted with the fate of her executioner. Can that metaphorical ice be shattered? Should it be? Audiences will contemplate these and other questions in a production featuring Whitney Griffin, Eric Morales and Staci Sabarsky, directed by Sean Brosnahan. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays through March 31, with tickets $15; there's also a pay-what-you-can show on Thursday, March 22, at 8 p.m. —Byron Woods