Flawed But Provocative Red Light Winter
Youngblood’s 2nd Season Opens With An interesting Drama
Adam Rapp’s Red Light Winter is a provocative exploration into the nature of human intimacy and the emotional end of sexuality. Though the plot is remarkably well constructed and there are some really brilliant bits of dialogue, the play’s action and its allegorical nature are ultimately very, very unsatisfying. That being said, Youngblood’s production of the drama, running now through February 6th at the Alchemist, is well worth the $12.00 ticket price—an exceedingly good night at a very cozy theatre.
There is very little in the production that isn’t really well executed. The play opens in an excessively shabby motel room in Amsterdam. Scenic Designer Evan Crain has framed the set at a skewed angle that makes for an interesting visual dynamic, but the sets for both the first and the second act do suffer a bit from a limited budget. David Rothcrock and Andrew Edwin Voss play Matt and Davis—opposite ends of the same type of creative personality. While Matt is a very sensitive intellectual—a struggling playwright who suffers from depression and feelings of inadequacy, Davis is a confident extrovert—a successful editor at a publishing company. As the play opens, Davis hopes to cheer-up Matt by bringing a prostitute named Christine (Tess Cinpinski) back to the hotel room.
The ensemble works really well together and we get the opportunity to see them in action right away as all three are in the hotel room for most of the first act. Voss has a dark intellectual charisma about him as Davis. Rothrock’s heartfelt performance as the dreamer intellectual is brilliant. For various reasons, the character could come across as kind of an obsessive creepy, stalker type. Rothrock gives the character enough intellectual stability to make his neuroses seem reasonably well-adjusted. Cinpinski makes for a really compelling mystery girl. The one little problem here is that her unique kind of stage beauty doesn’t seem quite obvious enough to appeal to a character with Davis’ less refined sense of aesthetics. And there are moments where Matt, who is falling deeply in love with Christine over the course of the brief conversation between the three of them, mentions tiny, little details about her personality that don’t seem all that present in Cinpinski’s performance, but both of these criticisms are splitting hairs. The unspoken emotional end of Cinpinski’s performance is brilliantly subtle . . . more than making-up for any tiny flaws in her performance.
The cast delivers a profoundly intricate chemistry onstage that fully takes advantage of the complexity of the characters as witnessed through their dialogue. As stated above, however, the script is ultimately flawed. As complicated as these characters seem intellectually, the allegorical nature of the plot limits their behavior to only the most basic of human interactions. The characters end up seeming like profoundly complicated people who are ultimately very simple—a quality that gives Rapp’s play a sort of “myth of fingerprints,” feel to it. Yes, we are terribly complicated individuals with terribly complicated personalities, but once you get beyond that, we’re all just basically the same people with the same drives—it’s how we react to those drives that makes us different. And while I want to believe this, I don’t. It seems terribly oversimplified to me, so the play ends up feeling very, very unrealistic and, well . . . allegorical. That allegory ultimately undermines the profound realities of human emotion that the play is trying to explore. I believe that underneath all those complexities that make up our identity, there are even greater complexities of chance and circumstance that make us all terribly convoluted human beings. If Rapp’s Red Light Winter were to have acknowledged this, it would’ve been much better. That being said, the Youngblood Theatre production is really good—one of the better shows of the season so far. It’s well worth seeing.