Intriguing, Intricate, Impeccably Acted- “Red Light Winter” Hits HotCity Stage

hc-posterPlaywright Adam Rapp (brother of actor Anthony Rapp) created a raw, visceral world in his Pulitzer Prize finalist, “Red Light Winter,” and HotCity fortunately loaded their production with three wonderful actors. The play needs a serious trim as it lasts over two and a half hours, is wordy and can only hold your attention that long with some serious acting chops behind it. It’s also filled with some holes in the script that you could drive a Mac truck through but, once again, you tend to forgive when you’re mesmerized with top notch talent on and off stage.

Director Eric Little is first and foremost responsible for bringing a quality product before us. This play could easily get lost in itself without the quick pace and distinctly drawn characters. Austin Pierce is perfect as the shy, easily smitten playwright, Matt. He and his buddy Davis, played with a strong and somewhat frightening bearing by Reginald Pierre, have traveled to Europe and are now in Amsterdam when the play opens. Pierre is also an outstanding actor who towers over the smaller Pierce and quickly displays his Alpha tendencies through voice and gestures utilizing his basketball players’ hands in an often threatening manner. When he brings a “window” girl prostitute back to their shabby hostel as a gift for the reticent Matt, it sets off a spark of passion, deceit and rage that carries over into the second act which occurs a year after these incidents.

The third party in this little “party” is Christina, played with a sexy, worldly bravura by Maggie Conroy. Without saying a word, she develops a persona that would make any man melt. With a few surprises of her own up her sleeve, she eventually seduces the sex-starved Matt. As we reach the second act and find even more surprises from everyone in New York, a “what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam” moment hits two of the characters as true feelings and desires can’t be ignored through the baggage of lies and deceit that have been woven in that patchwork of surreal moments from a year ago.

Maggie Conroy in HotCity Theatre's "Red Light Winter."

Maggie Conroy in HotCity Theatre’s “Red Light Winter.”

Rough language, actions and nudity all make this an adult venture but it brutally conveys a world that may seem commonplace to the cheating Davis (he stole Matt’s girlfriend and is now engaged to her) and even the somewhat reluctant Christina but it sweeps Matt into the whirlpool as well despite his more prudish temperament. The Alan Chlebowski set and lights help establish the two acts with jigsaw puzzle walls and smaller than normal backdrops and doors which give both settings a cramped feeling. His lights evoke a sensual mood in Amsterdam with reds and harsh whites while a softer pattern invades the New York apartment. Emily Montgomery’s costumes are perfect- particularly for the sensual Christina. The Patrick Burks sound design is heavy on Tom Waits but gets the point across. Miss Conroy’s lovely a cappella song in the first act is truly breath-taking.

There’s a lot to like about “Red Light Winter” despite its overly-long running time (there could have been some judicious cutting) and the rather raw subject matter. But these three performances keep you mesmerized and you can’t look away even during the cringe moments. “Red Light Winter” runs through March 29th at HotCity Theatre. Give them a call at 314-289-4063 for tickets or more information.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: