The K of D: an urban legend is a ghost story writ large: a spotlight replaces a flashlight, and a lone actress embodies 16 different characters as she unravels a tall tale about a girl with “the kiss of death.” Though the story by Laura Schellhardt is exactly the kind of tense, small-town mystery that keeps listeners enrapt around a campfire, it requires a deft storyteller to translate whispered fear to a bigger stage. Thankfully, Seattle Rep Theatre has 30-year-old chameleon Renata Friedman to call on.
As thin and wispy as the reeds lining Leo K’s stage, Friedman shows great dexterity playing an entire town’s worth of characters: mothers, fathers, bombastic teenage boys, shrill teenage girls, even a randy, villainous neighborhood brute named Johnny. She transitions quickly, neatly, among the friends of “skinny Charlotte McGraw,” who linger on a crumbling lakeside dock debating Charlotte’s lethal smooch and the circumstances surrounding the “The Summer of Death” in St Marys, Ohio.
For a brief moment early on, you wonder if the Rep’s just trying to save money with another solo show, but as Friedman develops mannerisms for each role—slumping shoulders and pulling out imaginary notebooks—the cynicism falls away. Who needs a cast when you have a Friedman? As she skitters back and forth across the dock, her shadow looms like a giantess above the eerie rural setting (co-crafted by director Braden Abraham and designer L.B. Morse). Her presence truly is larger than life—much larger, in fact, than the skinny, long-limbed girl on stage.
The K of D: an urban legend runs through Feb 20 at Seattle Rep Theatre.