By Adam Rapp
Directed by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia
Produced by Mary-Arrchie Theatre
At Angel Island, Chicago
Cross my heart, hope to die, it’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry
Red Light Winter is not the most well-constructed piece of theatre; it is not the best script, it is not flawless, it may not be deathless. That does not controvert, however, the fact that it is very enjoyable. And it is a good play. The script is at once serious yet playful, superficial yet deep. Depression, suicide, and deadly disease sit next to the dalliance of drugs and frat-boy pranks. It’s the combination that Adam Rapp balances so well that makes this piece what it is. And Mary-Arrchie Theatre brings a smart interpretation of the text with strong actors that make this a piece really worth watching.
Matt (Dan Behrendt) is a playwright (any play containing a playwright is going to contain a fair amount of literary masturbation) going through writer’s block and serious depression; his freshman dorm-mate, Davis (Dereck Garner), an editor at a publishing house who’s recently had his first big break (any play containing someone working in a publishing house is going to contain a kind of literary masturbation where the artist and the publisher argue about what art is and who does it better), has decided that he needs to get his friend out of the doldrums. So they decide to travel through Europe together. The first act takes place in Amsterdam, that city of cities, filled with canals, architecture, museums, and legal marijuana, mushrooms, and molls. Davis brings back the beautiful French ingénue Christina (Sasha Gioppo) to their hotel in hopes of breaking Matt out of his funk.
It is the relationships that make this play. Matt and Davis are clearly dear to one another, even though they have exceedingly different personalities and can treat one another in less than altruistic ways. Director Carlo Lorenzo Garcia strikes a wonderful balance, especially in the character Davis: he’s the alpha male, the frat type, upfront and assertive; he’s not the best guy in the world. But he does have a deep affection for Matt, and can be a good person. Unless he’s softened and humanized so we can see why Matt likes him, the relationship doesn’t make sense. That is, if he’s nothing but a dick, the story falls apart. But Garner brings an earnestness to the role that makes us like Davis, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Matt is clearly the most fleshed-out character in the play, which is why, when Rapp occasionally succumbs to clichés, it stings the ears all the more. The character’s bemoaning of how “nerdy” he is, is so . . . 1998. Which is to say, like, way old. Whoa. I don’t even remember that year. As I remove my tongue from my cheek, we can take a look at Christina, who is portrayed convincingly by Gioppo, even when she’s at times two-dimensional and seems to move from embodying one cliché to another. Still, Rapp’s quick-fire and cutting dialogue is, as ever, very enjoyable, and the three actors on stage have absolutely honed their timing. The play of the century it’s not, but Red Light Winter is fun, a worthy piece of theatre; and Mary-Arrchie creates an earnest interpretation of the play. It is a great night out, especially for younger, hipper audiences.
At Angel Island, 735 West Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL, call 773) 871-0442, tickets $18 -$22, Friday & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours 45 minutes with intermission, through Dec. 18th.