Green Light 4 Red @ Second Thought

Red Light Winter has extended due to popular demand. Folks must like to see hot sex and rape enacted up close. Not gettin’ any at home? Extra performances are scheduled for May 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 pm and Friday May 13 at 8 pm. Celebrate Friday the 13th here with someone you love or have real rough sex with, or whom you want to ditch in a cruel, unusual way.

Second Thought Theatre’s middle name could be savage. Those folks like to mount shows containing fountains of blood, guts, graphic sex and abusive relationships, the way some other companies like to showcase Neil Simon.

Natalie Young, Alex Organ, Drew Wall

There’s a style and rhythm to it.  Their current offering is the above-noted Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp, a chilly, sexually aggressive, post-modern take on a buddy comedy set mostly in Amsterdam’s Brothel District. First produced by Steppenwolf Theatre in 2005 (Rapp’s impacted the theatre scene in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and New York City since the 90’s). Red Light Winter won an Obie in 2006 and received a Pulitzer nomination.

 “A frank, graphic story of erotic fixation and the havoc it can wreak on sensitive souls (Adam Rapp is) a playwright of obvious promise.” New York Times (undated)

Longtime Dallas demi-god actor/director Regan Adair came back from New York City to direct this play. I can see why. Adair masters multi-level, nuanced performance, detailed portrayals of competing motivations and scripts that allow actors to bore deep into audience’s psyches and souls in unexpected ways. Rapp’s three-person shadowy play fits the bill. Using the black box space at the Addison Theatre Center to its best advantage, Adair designed a one-room bedroom/apartment set, open on two sides with audiences leaning in hard to hear and see, from both perspectives, tennis court fashion. He cast three gutsy, dedicated actors, each capable of building engrossing, focused personalities on stage that feel as natural and easy as anyone sipping hot coffee in the lobby might. Who knows if that coffee-sipper is a serial killer or a Russian spy? Drew Wall, Alex Organ and Natalie Young give exemplary performances in this convoluted, linguistically strained, hard to watch show. As an ensemble they function together effortlessly, exhibiting a level of trust and revelatory risk-taking that attests to depth of skill as performers. Their ensemble work reinforces the masterful vision of director Adair, who sculpted and chiseled and overlaid such a fine performance from each of them. They went a lot farther than I’ve ever seen any of them go; I don’t just mean in disrobing.

In Rapp’s world, no one is exactly who they say they are or present themselves to be. A marvelous conceit to watch worked out on stage, (how well Shakespeare has succeeded with this) I found that Rapp’s complex creation of intrigue and layered identity pushed me away from empathetic involvement with characters or plot. I felt like I was watching the three through the lens of a high-powered telescope, like ants, or alien beings. Hence, for me, the crashing emotional peaks I saw played out superbly seemed remote and intellectual, rather than visceral. I go to the theatre to be swept away, not to get reminded constantly about how the sausage is made. It was disconcerting. I found this a superior production of a slightly clumsy, over-written play. But worth seeing, if just to watch lovemaking and a rape scene done extremely well.

Here is a comment by Adam Rapp in a Gothamist article from 2007, gives an idea of how his mind works: “If we can create an archetype in our heads through the media, whether it’s Osama bin Laden or whoever else, then we can at least have this black-and-white, archetypal, medieval type response to something that’s far more subtle and complicated, I think. And we long for that as a culture, it feels like.” Are you clear about that, sir?

One negative production comment: it’s an admirable goal to ‘go green’ and project your program on a wall. But it still needs to be visible and readable…why not print programs on recycled paper and recycle them after shows, like other companies? I could see there were words dimly lit on a dark wall beside the set, but they were indecipherable.

TRIVIA: For Mark Ruffalo fans out there, it appears he plans to star in a Scott Rudin film based on the stage play. “Yes. I want to do it. They’re still putting that movie together, it’s based on a play, I think it was nominated for a Tony a couple of years ago, on Broadway.”

Second Thought Theatre’s Red Light Winter runs through May 13, 2011 and may be the audience hit of the season.

Tickets: 214.616.8439

Addison Theatre Centre Studio Space 15650Addison Road, Addison TX

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