The Dead of Winter - Synopsis
The Dead of Winter explores the conflict that occurs between those who have the ability to accept foreign and undesirable elements into their midst and those who don’t. The story centers around a newcomer to a small town: Rob Hendricks. As Rob meets the people of the town, he quickly realizes that small town life holds few secrets. Gossip and rumor quickly run ahead of him and he finds that people know about him before any actual meeting ever occurs. Yet, with time, he begins to find his niche among the townspeople. The liked and well-respected Jacobs family befriends Rob and strives to make him feel welcome. Ultimately, a strong friendship that leans toward romance blossoms between Rob and the daughter, Abby. Yet there are those who fear all is not well. The Colters, friends of the Jacobs family, have a sense of unease. In addition, Kelly Palen and Jake Thompson, friends of Abby’s, feel something is not what it seems. Kelly, jealous of the relationship between Abby and Rob, digs into Rob’s past and discovers that Rob had been convicted of sexual offenses, specifically molestation, in another part of the country. From this point on, the reactions of the town accelerate in many different directions. Abby feels betrayal and confusion, while others like Sharon Colter see Rob’s leaving as the only possible solution. Much to everyone’s dismay, Will, Abby’s father, defends Rob’s right to live in the town. His stance, however, does not agree with that of his wife. Evy cannot reconcile herself to what Rob has done, whether he paid his price through prison and treatment or not, and she and Will come into conflict. As the play escalates, the Jacobs family becomes pivotal in Rob’s fight to quit running from his past and find some sort of acceptance. Their decisions seem to guide the actions of the town and as the Jacobs family becomes torn apart, so does the town. In the end, as a resolution seems to appear, an unexpected turn of events shatters the people of the town, though we may suspect they all somewhat foresaw it.
While The Dead of Winter has been compared in style with Miller’s The Crucible, it’s unique quality lies in the use of “interludes” by various members of the community. In these, the characters step outside the action of the play and simply talk to us, the audience. These moments of calm truth, amidst the sometimes overwhelming actions of the play, give us a valid connection to the inhabitants of this realistic, small town.
Technically, The Dead of Winter is easy to produce. Locations are primarily created through the use of light and dialogue. Critical to the play is a tree, either realistic or representational, while minor furniture pieces such as a table, chairs, and benches do the rest.
The Dead of Winter is not a play about child molestation. It is, instead, a play about the ability of people to accept flaws in others and go on. The action of the script does not center on the crime or its victim. Instead, it centralizes on the relationships within the Jacobs family and how their personal struggle reflects that of an entire town, and ultimately, a nation. Can we, as human beings, accept defects in others, even if those faults threaten our own sensibilities? This play will challenge an audience to look at themselves and try to judge their own reactions. Barbara Lewis of London’s “The Stage” sums this up when she states: “In the theatre, we are sure that 99% of the characters in the play are behaving appallingly but we are not entirely certain that in real life we would be among the 1% that does the right thing.”