Frozen foods magnate Maxwell F. Styph has had himself frozen. Now, friends, family, and business associates are coming to a “memorial dinner party” to say goodbye to Max.
This was the premise behind a hilariously funny, audience-interactive approach to theater innovated by psychologist/playwright, Ronald Jay Cohen. The first drafts had been written by Cohen as a funeral, set in a chapel. In these early versions of the play, Cohen tried to write a comedy that answered the question: “What if they gave a funeral, and everyone who came told the truth about the deceased?”
As the play took shape, Cohen began to experience some uneasiness with the material. Despite the fact that portions of the script were riotously funny, the focus of the play was squarely on some very unpleasant realities of life. At least some audience members might have sensitivities about, or even painful associations towards, material that dealt with loss and eulogies. Somehow, the script had to be “lightened-up,” allowing audience members to better distance themselves from the goings-on, and freely laugh at what was taking place. But how could that be done?
Cohen’s solution was to make the situation a little wackier, more atypical, and less realistic. Instead of a coffin prop, a seven-foot, smoking, “cryonic chamber” would be utilized. And instead of being put-up in a traditional theater with a chapel set on stage, the play would run in a restaurant, and be couched as a “memorial dinner party.” In addition to scripted “eulogies” from cast members, audience members themselves would be permitted to construct and verbalize their own, often unflattering or outrageous memories of the person being “honored.” And that is how Frozen Styph was conceived. See the play if you can. For now, enjoy the novel!