Theater Review: “The K of D” showcases versatile Renata Friedman

Renata Friedman in The K of D; Photo by Chris Bennion

Jewish actress Renata Friedman pulls out an incredible performance of a whopping 16 characters in a dark new play by Laura Scellhardt called The K of D: an urban legend, now playing at Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. Friedman is incredibly talented and brings physical and vocal specificity to each of her personas. The storyline can be hard to follow at times, but it’s worth it just to watch her.

A couple of notes about the title: “K of D” stands for kiss of death, a unique “skill” that the main character Charlotte McGraw acquires after kissing her dying brother on the lips. It’s subtitled an “urban legend”, but it actually takes place in a small town in Ohio. The narrator, “girl”, tells us most urban legends actually occur in rural areas.

Friedman is very fun to watch as she completely transforms herself for each character. However, she switches between characters so quickly, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who is talking. Director Braden Abraham could have benefitted the piece by slowing it down, especially in the beginning.

The narrator character tells the story that occurred years ago, over the course of a summer. The small town is populated by a gang of kids, including the narrator and Charlotte, Charlotte’s parents, the mean Johnny Whistler and other various townsfolk. There’s mystery, there’s intrigue, and there’s a little bit of dark magic. The story itself is rather like a short story, giving a vivid look at a particular town and its inhabitants.

The main character, Charlotte, never speaks, after the death of her brother. It’s an interesting choice on the part of Chicago Playwright Laura Schellhardt to not allow the central character to have a chance to share her story- even if it were just her thoughts. All we know of Charlotte is what the narrator tells us, and in Friedman’s physical realization of her character, which is very good. Still, it would have been nice to get inside a little bit more in her head, somehow. Indeed, because there is such a fast switching from character to character, there’s not much of a chance to identify with any of the characters.

The design for the show is simply gorgeous. L.B. Morse and Braden Abraham have created a wonderful set, with a distorted dock that dips into the water in the foreground, and a field of wheat that blows in the wind in the background. Robert Aguilar’s lighting design, too, is simply stunning, and Matt Staritt’s clever sound design makes the small town come alive with sliding glass doors, cars, wind, and other elements.

Though this production could have improved with a slower pace, and perhaps a deeper unfolding of the main characters, it is still an engaging piece, and worth it to the skill of the highly talented Renata Friedman.

The K of D: an urban legend runs through October 22nd at Illusion Theater. Click here for ticket information.

*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received two tickets to “The K of D: an urban legend” for free in the hope that I would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But getting the tickets for free doesn’t mean that I was obligated to give a glowing review. I wouldn’t recommend anything that I don’t think you’d enjoy. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Blah, blah, blah…