With mouths hanging open, audience members from “Red Light Winter” exit the Studio Theatre, shocked to speechlessness. A story that centers around the relationship of two college friends, “Red Light Winter” by Adam Rapp undresses human relationships, leaving the characters naked, in more ways than one.
Rapp’s piece was crafted to highlight the friendship between characters Matt and Davis – college friends, now approaching their early thirties. Matt (Jason Fleitz), a disheveled, almost dirty, struggling playwright, and his best friend, the insensitive, macho-man, Davis (William Peden), adventure to Amsterdam one winter, unaware of the impact it will have on their lives.
This particular night, Davis brings home a beautiful prostitute named Christina (Regina Aquino), who is the intended entertainment for Matt. Unexpectedly, the characters’ emotions begin to make a mess of relationships, creating a triangle of unrequited love. Christina falls for the macho, yet exceedingly annoying (and engaged) Davis, while Matt is captivated by Christina. Davis seems to make it out unscathed, though due to various moments throughout the play, the audience knows that he does feel something under his macho-fa?ade.
Following Act I, the second part of Rapp’s piece occurs in Matt’s dorm-like apartment in New York City. As disheveled and depressing as Matt himself, this apartment serves as the home for the play’s climax and ending. Christina comes back, Davis exhibits his cave-man tendencies yet again and Matt struggles with his self-esteem and self-worth.
It’s hard to describe the impact of “Red Light Winter” without giving away all of the plot details. An incredibly intense and intimate show, “Red Light Winter” shocks audiences with full nudity, violence, and language.
Rapp’s script is supported by the talent of an outstanding cast, especially that of Fleitz. Fleitz manages to handle Rapp’s script with delicacy when certain moments call for serious drama, yet his humor is both unique and evident throughout the action of the play. Due to a combination of Rapp’s writing and the talent of cast members, the play projects intense dramatic moments, which are often times broken with awkward humor. This humor provides moments for the audience to breathe just as Rapp’s grip on the audience seems unbearable.
The underlying themes of the play are nothing new: friendship, unrequited love, the quest for self-worth. Yet, the production has a way of presenting these themes with such rawness and intimacy that the audience is left questioning relationships in their own lives. Do I complete the lesser half of a toxic relationship? Where does admiration and love become obsession and insanity? Desires, insanity, filth, depression, and confusion all pummel audience members as they shift in their seats.
The action in Act II of “Red Light Winter” may upset some audience members, and certainly shock all of them. However, despite its edgy script and layout, the play freshly exhibits a story of human relationships and struggles. The Studio Theatre presents yet another contemporary work, perfectly fit for college audiences. Marijuana, sex, and deception, common elements of college life, wind their way through the action of “Red Light Winter.” The production leaves audiences to explore the truth and falsity of their own real-life relationships.
Red Light Winter runs at the Studio Theatre through October 15th. Please see www.studiotheatre.org for ticket information.