“Red Light Winter” hits the Players’ Theatre stage

BY: VIVIAN GATICA 

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CSULB’s University Players premiered Adam Rapp’s “Red Light Winter” this weekend at the Players’ Theatre under the direction of Olivia Treviño. The play introduced a plot with sexual themes and betrayal in a way that leaves little to the imagination.

The play first takes place in a hotel room in Amsterdam where Matt (Bradley Roa), a depressed playwright, is struggling to find something to live for. That’s when his arrogant friend Davis (Cameron Neckers), a big-shot book editor in New York, brings along a French prostitute named Christina who he came across in the windows of the red-light district.

Davis had actually brought Christina along to sleep with Matt. From here, “Red Light Winter” becomes a clear unrequited love triangle of Christina loving Davis and Matt loving Christina.

The characters that Rapp created are problematic and very hard to sympathize with. Davis is a cocky “bad boy” without an ounce of compassion; and even though Christina has probably come across several questionable men throughout her life, she still falls for him. Her naivety and misjudgement doesn’t allow her to see that Matt is the guy that actually cares for her, but then again, his constant wallowing in self-pity doesn’t make him very likeable either.

However, the cast did do something right by softening the characteristics that made these characters so unpleasant, particularly Roa. Although Matt’s infatuation with Christina was bizarre (to say the least), Roa did manage to convince me that the love that his character had for Christina was what gave him the hope that he needed to move on with his life.

Another thing that is really bothersome about this play was the stage and the scenery. The Players’ Theatre stage is set up in a thrust style for “Red Light Winter,” with audiences facing three sides of the stage (left, right and front). This means that depending on where you sit, you see the play at different angles and will sometimes miss crucial expressions and interactions between the actors. This was something that is obviously didn’t care for, given that I missed reactions to critical scenes of the play based on where I was sitting.

There are also problems with the scenery. If I had not researched this play beforehand or had not made the connection with the play’s title and brief mentions in the play, I would not have known that it takes place in Amsterdam in the first act. The same cityscape is used for both acts, even though the other takes place in New York City. It was very confusing, and something should have been done to distinguish the two sets, even if there was limited space to work with.

There was also one piece of slanted furniture that served as a wall, bed and closet throughout the play. While I do recognize the need for imagination, it just made many scenes awkward and unrealistic.

The rest of the elements ranging from music, hair and makeup,costumes, props and lighting were spot on, but unfortunately overshadowed by the disappointing sets.

The University Players’ production of “Red Light Winter” was not, by any means, a flop. However, there was a lack of cohesion when everything came together that made the play difficult to follow.

“Red Light Winter” will be playing at the Players’ Theatre until March 16. For tickets visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/927059.