Black Ice, the first play produced by Sarah Lawrence’s newest troupe, the Crownhart Theatre Company, ran on April 11th and 12th in the Rothschild Classroom. The play is an hour-long dialogue between two male characters, written by young playwright and current Wesleyan student Max Friedlich. At SLC, four different directors and four different casts performed the play four times. Originally developed and produced in the summer of 2012 during the Powerhouse Theater Intensive, Friedlich’s second work won the Young Playwrights’ award the same year. Focusing on themes of religion, morality, and repentance, the play explores the potential clash between contemporary secularism and traditional Christian mythologies.
Each of the four renditions of the play took on different themes within Black Ice, a daring choice for Crownhart. The central point of conflict in the play is withheld until the final moments, leaving plenty of room for interpretation in Freidlich’s writing. As such Stella Brennan-Romano ‘17, Harrison Densmore ‘15, Elias Higham ‘15, and Isabella Roland ‘15 could respectively make varied directorial decisions without compromising the integrity of the script. Black Ice’s complicated anti-hero M was, for example, depicted as judgmental, erratic, cunning and snide all while remaining the most rational and reliable voice in the play.
M and G, the play’s only characters, discuss the events of G’s life throughout the show. At the demand of M, G rehashes particular occurrences and in doing so reveals the larger moral question within. Played by Roland, Richard Bucey ‘16, and Maddie Fischer ‘16 in three separate productions, M remains a cunning and judgmental character. As the play progresses and G’s warped ideas about morality are uncovered by M, his perspective becomes increasingly dubious. Maxwell Hegley '14, who stage-managed and produced Black Ice, said that G “became so repulsive to me that I actually found it hard to keep doing the play sometimes.”
Hegley is optimistic about the Crownhart theater company, his pet project, and has plans in the works for next year. “It's a unique experience, being a part of two casts while producing/stage managing the other two,” Hegley said. “I learned so much about the play from so many different angles.” Friedlich and Hegley, who became friends during the Powerhouse Theater Intensive, agree that the young playwriting world is a small one. When asked in a late night phone interview what he thought of the two Saturday productions he attended, Friedlich said that he was interested to see what people felt they could read into the text: “It was really fascinating to see drastically different interpretations, when I have a very clear idea of what it [Black Ice] is in my head,” he explained. The play, which deals with difficult material, and complex psychological themes, is what Friedlich aptly called “heavy work.” “They obviously put in a ton of work, without having access to me as source material, I was proud of even the people I didn’t know.” said the young playwright.
At the end of the day, the playwright’s work is in the hands of the directors and actors. Friedlich said, “There’s something gratifying, a moment of feeling more professional, I have no idea what they’re doing, I have nothing to do with it.”