Can you forgive a serial killer? Actors’ Theatre production asks that question

By Sue Merrell | The Grand Rapids Press
November 29, 2009, 4:22AM

Actors Theatre of Grand Rapids presents Frozen

Kitty Carrico Carpenter portrays mom Nancy, and Ralph Lister is her son, serial killer Ralph, in the Actors’ Theatre production of “Frozen” in Spectrum Theater. Photo by Octavian Cantilli of The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS – Serial killers are popular subjects for dramas, whether the stories are about real-life murderers such as Ted Bundy or the fictional Hannibal Lector of “Silence of the Lambs.”

“People are fascinated by that kind of criminal probably because they are so hard to understand,” said local director Stephanie Sandberg. “We want to get inside their heads.”

“Frozen,” the play Sandberg is directing for Actors’ Theatre, pushes the audience a step further by asking whether it is possible to forgive a serial killer.

“There’s a lot of research about the effects of forgiveness on the brain and the power forgiveness has on society,” Sandberg said. “Even in the worst-case scenario, we do have the capacity to forgive.”

Written by British playwright Bryony Lavery, the three-character drama received four Tony Award nominations when it was presented in New York in 2005. It also created a bit of a controversy because the play lifted some passages without permission from a 1997 article in New Yorker Magazine.

But, fitting to the topic, the author of the article, Malcolm Gladwell, and Dorothy Lewis, the psychiatrist he featured in the article, chose to forgive rather than sue.

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