Last night, Mark and I went to Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp at the University of Alberta. It was MFA Directing Candidate Chris Bullough's Media Room show. I had seen a small section of the play a few years ago and had heard about it, but had never seen it before. The play is dark and gritty and speaks to toxic friendships and people both worthy unworthy of love. It also touches on themes of depression and looking to people to anchor us to the world. It's a challenging piece, with nudity and strong themes and language, but I was really impressed with how this production handled it all. Overall, the tone was very realistic, which I loved. Feeling that these people might possibly be real made it easier to deal with behaviour that was abhorrent or self-destructive. The nudity and sexual scenes were handled so well. I usually find myself self-conscious on the part of the actors, but there was just the right amount of discretion and reveal that it never felt gratuitous. I commend the three actors, Ben Stevens, Chris W. Cook and Gabby Bernard as well as director Chris Bullough for their sensitive delivery of this piece.
There are a few challenges with Rapp's play. It's very fascinating and Mark and I talked a lot about it afterwards, both about the motivations of the characters and what Rapp was trying to say. I do think that the character of Davis (Cook) is written a little too ugly. It's hard to find a reason why Matt (Stevens) would still be friends with him and why Christina (Bernard) would fall for him. But I think that the problems were with the scripts. I read somewhere that there is an autobiographical component to the script. Perhaps Rapp didn't want to humanize the real Davis too much as a form of punishment. It's hard to say and that is my own idle speculation. I do think, however, that Cook was a good choice as his natural charm seeps through enough to smooth out Davis at least a little bit. Bernard is lovely and luminous and it's easy to see why she would be an object of fascination for Matt. And as Matt, Stevens manages to pull off the intellect and insecurity and the fragility required. Overall, a great trio onstage.