Red Light Winter

  • Date:
    February 1, 2006
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp, which has landed at the Barrow Street Theater courtesy of Chicago�s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is a pitch-perfect depiction of two aging frat-boys at work and at play.

    In the first act, Matt an aspiring playwright (Christopher Denham) and his pal Davis a hot-shot would-be publisher (Gary Wilmes) are on vacation in Amsterdam swinging and smoking their way through the sensual pleasures of bourgeois youth culture; in the second, Matt�s back home in his East Village pad still aspiring and Davis is working hard at acquiring the accoutrements of the respectable middle-class (for example, a wife, albeit Matt�s ex-girlfriend).

    What binds these two together in this play is Christina (Lisa Joyce), an Amsterdam hooker who starts out as Davis� proposed cure for Matt�s depression but who is transformed into a much more mysterious muse over the course of the two acts. That transformation is symbolized by the eye-catching red dress that she alternately dons and doffs throughout the show. It�s a grabber.

    And what makes this a mesmerizing evening is the stark reality of Rapp�s dialogue and the production that Rapp also directed. Whether it�s a rather disgusting discourse on fecal matters, or chats about the comparative literary merits of Raymond Carver, Henry Miller and J.K. Rowling, or the pleasures of Godard�s Breathless, Rapp keeps the jokes and the action flowing. And the claustrophobic sets by Todd Rosenthal will be manna to anyone who ever stayed at a European youth hostel or decorated digs with sagging bookshelves anchored to the wall by metal standards. The lighting, by Keith Parham, is dark and spot-on.

    As is the acting. Denham is perfect as the passive, suicidal core of the play. Wilmes is amazingly attractive as his recklessly cruel buddy. And Joyce, making her New York debut, manages to soak up the spotlight in all of her different guises.

    Follow the red dress to the Barrow Street for an evening with zing!

    What the critics had to say.....

    CHARLES ISHERWOOD of the NEW YORK TIMES says �A frank, graphic story of erotic fixation and the havoc it can wreak on sensitive souls.�
    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER says "If 'Red Light Winter' is really more pulp romance than profound drama, there's little doubt it hooks viewers deeply.
    FRANK SCHECK of NEW YORK POST says "It is absolutely spellbinding."
    LINDA WINER of NEWSDAY says "Adam Rapp's haunting yet annoying, captivating but not really credible, sexually raw and emotionally slick powerhouse of a drama."
    MICHAEL KUCHWARA of Associated Press says "Red Light Winter, despite flashes of witty, often sardonic dialogue, feels overlong and yet unfinished."

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times
    New York Post
    Newsday
    Associated Press