Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Red Light Winter”

Recommended***Chicago has no “off-Broadway district”, but we are home to many smaller “store-front theaters), where young companies, ensemble companies hone their craft with a mission. One of these companies, Mary-Arrchie Theatre ( who have been around since 1986) focuses on material that addresses the fears and passions of the human condition , in their second floor “black Box” theatre located on Sheridan Road ( at Broadway). way. Their current production, Adam Rapp’s “Red Light Winter” is a smooth two act three character play that truly deals with relationships. I must warn you that some of the material in this play is not for all audiences as there is pot smoking and nudity as well as simulated sex, but this is not there for selling tickets to those who enjoy these things. Rapp, in developing the story and the characters needed this to be in the script, and under the careful direction of Carlo Lorenzo Garcia, who uses this very small stage to its best advantage, none of what we see is offensive in any

The play opens in a hostel room in Amsterdam with Matt ( Dan Behrendt has developed a very realistic character), a playwright, sitting at his computer and thinking about his life. The pause is long but it is his life he is contemplating taking, so the time lapse is needed. He has been planning to kill himself because of his feeling that he has nothing to live for. His work  has not earned him what he wants and his girlfriend has left him for another.His college roommate, Davis ( deftly handled by Dereck Garner) who works for a publisher and  is starting to earn some big bucks has taken him on this trip to help him resolve his issues and on this night is out finding him a prostitute in order to allow him the release of tension he so needs.

The prostitute ( enchantingly played by Sasha Gioppo) jokes around with both men as they counter-play with each other and then, when Davis leaves, she belongs to Matt. During this act, we learn that prior to bringing Christina home, Davis “tried her out” and later we find that Christina has fallen inn love with him, yet, she was paid to make Matt happy and so complies. They make love and in the middle of the night, Christina leaves Matt asleep, but leaves behind a small recorder of a song she has written an dthe glamorous red dress she wore for their tryst. During the intermission, if you sit in your seat instead of running to the corner for a coffee, you will see something amazing. The set by Scott Davis, gets converted from this dingy hostel room, quite bare into a sloppy bachelor studio apartment. Half the room is wheeled off as the new half comes brom backstage to take its place. Hundreds, or perhaps thousands of props ( Sarah Burnham does a masterful job) are strewn about to make this truly be what it is meant to be, a starving artists’ home. As the second act opens, Matt is sitting at his computer, once again in silence as he listens to the tape of Christina’s music. It is a snowy New York evening and a knock at the door breaks the silence. It turns out to be Christina, who does not recognize Matt at all. Back in Amsterdam, she had asked for Davis’ address so she could send him her music and he in hit way of getting rid of her, gave her Matt’s.

She, as it turns out had fallen in love with Davis and had come to America, to seek him out. At this point she also reveals much of her true identity to Matt as he opens up his heart and soul to her. She has some health problems and family problems. We did learn in the first act, that she was not the French girl she pretended to be, but was an American who traveled abroad and stayed. Now, her life is crumbling around her  and she has AIDS. Matt tries to calm her and help her ( Behrendt handles these touching scenes with great care). He goes to get her some food and while he is gone, Davis arrives to pick up his cell phone. He doesn’t remember Christina ( who we now know as Annie) at all, but we can feel her love for him. Davis, lout as he is, takes her and then shrugs her off, going off to his fiance ( who it turns out was the woman that left Matt) and moments later, she runs out of the apartment as well. Matt returns to find the door open, the room a mess, the red dress missing and her panties on the floor and once again, sits down at his computer to finish the story he is writing ( which is the story we are watching). Again, silence, then he plays the tape and the lights dim.

While this is two hours and forty minutes os solid performances, well directed, I have the feeling that there were a few unanswered questions that were a bother to the audience on this Thursday night. Did Annie aka Christina, allow Davis to take her so she would get her revenge ( and some for Matt as well)knowing that the odds were he would get AIDS? Or, was she so blind to the love that Matt had for her, that she gave up any hope of extending the days of her life? I guess each of us will have our own interpretation and some great discussion on the way home.

“Red Light Winter” will continue at Mary-Arrchie Theatre located at 735 W. Sheridan Road ( Angel Island) through December 18th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.

Tickets ( open seating) range from $18-$22 ( a bargain for theater this strong) and reservations can be made by calling 773-871-0442 or online at www.maryarrchie.com


Metered parking is available, but the CTA is probably the best way to get there.

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