A major feature of the new Mrs. Hawking play Fallen Women will be the chance to see our hero verbally spar with Mrs. Frost, her greatest foe and childhood friend. In a way this has been a long time in coming. We saw the two of them interact in their youth in Singapore in the flashback sections of Gilded Cages, and the course of the subsequent story Mrs. Frost was all about their adult clashing. But through all that conflict, they remained at a distance, scheming and striking at one another, but without much actual personal interaction.
But since the core of their narrative is that they are enemies who used to be friends, I feel like there is a need to see them interact as adults. There are years of history, whole narratives worth of conflict and betrayal, of which we want to see the fallout. Not to mention the fact that they’ve been established as two brilliant, powerful women, each with their own damage, who are some of the only true rivals and equals they will ever have. So their scenes must be crackling, a clashing of towering intellects and ferocious egos, who are as drawn to each other as much as they are at odds.
A clear frame of reference for the interaction between them is Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham, which is useful for quickly getting the audience up to speed. But the nuance for us is the longstanding relationship between them, going all the way back to the childhood. Young Victoria loved her as a sister and respected her intelligence, but always discounted her until she saw, all those years later, just what she was capable of. Frost went from being Hawking’s governess to clawing her way up the social ladder, but the tension of their different class origins has never totally gone away. And of course, there is the lingering resentment of betrayal, of the pain of having the fight to destroy someone you once considered family. This is a recurring theme of the second Hawking trilogy— that you can only be betrayed by a friend.
Our brilliant actresses, Cari Keebaugh as Mrs. Hawking and Arielle Kaplan as Mrs. Frost, bring so much complexity and humanity to these roles, and it is up to them to make you believe in this complicated, dangerous relationship. If we do this right, I think their scenes together, where these two titans finally clash in person, will be like the last creamy sip of the milkshake of this new show.
You’ll have to see it to get a taste.
Catch Mrs. Hawking in MRS. FROST and the all-new FALLEN WOMEN this January at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA