A collective gasp permeated throughout the audience. Eric Gilde, had just delivered another gut-wrenching, heart-dropping line which cut deep into the collective emotion of the viewers. Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp is not easy, it is not stomachable, it is not fun, it is, however beautiful.
A play set first in the red light district of Amsterdam and then in the East Village. The story follows two best friends (of sorts) who don't seem to have very much in common. Their personalities clash completely, in every way except for their brilliance. They both are brilliant literary minds, but where one is shy, reserved, depressed, and idolizes Henry Miller; the other is brash, offensive, and defends Raymond Carver. Their personalities offset and yet they are held together in their unity, in their defense of each other, in their love and simultaneous hatred of each other. In this light, Matt (Gilde and the shy one) is bought a gift by Davis (Jesse Bush, and the other). Davis buys Matt a prostitute, to help break his dry spell of three years. Christina (Erin Adair) brings with her a sense of guarded emotion, coupled with a shade of broken dreams and hope for a better future. In this light, the three set off on their journey together through single-scene acts with discussion ranging from literature, to music, to giardiasis, and everything in between.
The direction by Rachel Lampert really shines in this well-rounded impressive production. Her use of staging to help convey plot and story was riveting, and the actors took to it with great mastery. While the sets (designed by Kent Goetz) at first seem minimal, the detail placed within them is apparent by the subtle angles to open the play up to the audience, the boxy nature of the rooms trapping the action within them and forcing emotion to the surface. The lights (designed by Michael Kalmanowitz), like the set, feel simple at first, but important moments are beautifully lit with subtle warm and cool emphasis in specific areas. The whole production feels completely polished, and explored to the minute detail. The sound design gets the award for subtle, yet wonderful moments, when Matt pours tea for Christine, and the expected hiss of the tea kettle emerged, however after pouring, when Matt placed the kettle back on the burner it emitted one more, small whistle. A small detail, but something which allowed my brain to recognize the realism in that choice, and therefore recognize the realism throughout the entire production.
If I had one complaint with the show, it would have nothing to do with the Kitchen production at all. It has to do with the play itself. I personally am not a fan of (what I feel is) gratuitous behavior within a contemporary play. I don't understand why new plays tell us anything new about the human condition by adding excessive drug use, nudity, sex, swearing, you name it and I believe that the majority of contemporary plays has it. When it is artistically driven I understand, and many people say "well the play has to be done that way because it's written that way." There is my problem from the beginning! While the new brand of plays are "problem plays" (meaning August: Osage County is now the standard for a family drama/comedy rather than The Philadelphia Story) which doesn't bother me. I don't understand why contemporary plays needs people to get naked, need people to shout unnecessary swears and offensive words, and need people to have simulated sex right in front of me. It doesn't do anything for me. Not all of these issues apply to Red Light Winter, but some of them do, and it starts with Adam Rapp. Yes he's a brilliant storyteller and his dialogue is natural, carefree, and easy. I don't think it would be any less so if he rewrote moments to cut the gratuitous things, in fact it would make me, at least, like him more.
If you have a chance, see this production. As an actor I can only hope to participate in art this palpable during my career, and my hats are off to the entire team for creating the piece that they did.
For tickets and more information, visit http://kitchentheatre.org/RLW.html or call 607-273-4497.
Photo by Danny Bristoll
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