The smell of herbal cigarettes and unspoken demons fills the room as the audience walks into the lonely studio space that is the setting of Red Light Winter, directed by Chris Di Staulo. Written by Adam Rapp, this lonely look into the tortured mind of the writer provides its audience with an insight into isolation, and what it really means to be alone in a world full of strangers.
Upon walking into the venue, a sense of isolation creeps up on the audience as we enter the small room, equipped with folding chairs and an overtly bleak setting, which we later find out is a hotel room. The play opens with our main character, Matt (Anthony Rella), in a state of heavy exhaustion, attempting suicide and simply throwing himself around the room in frustration. Having provided a strong opening, Matt proceeds to his seat, which is lit with a red light stage right, helping to establish the source of Matt’s inner conflict and hinting at the conclusion – red being the colour of Christina’s (Jess Reynolds) blouse later on.
The lighting scheme, courtesy of Lightning and Sound Designer Corey Stanton, definitely anchored the characters in their setting throughout the show, offering different nests for each to settle in. Matt’s friend, Davis (Jeremy Ferdman), had a bed stage left, opposite Matt’s disheveled typewriter, which effectively seemed to have been lit by a white lamp, indicating a much less conflicted character. Above the bed was a red bulb, which was effective in emulating the experience of Amsterdam’s Red Light District once all other lights, excluding the red lamp stage right, were turned off.
Although evident later on during the second act, I initially had a difficult time realizing that the setting had changed. This created some confusion, though it did not take away from the powerhouse performances delivered by the cast of three. Having had a small cast, the group of actors held up the 100 minute performance very well, nailing the fast paced dialogue and the heavy subject matter. However, throughout the performance, one character in particular struck me with a powerful blow. Jeremy Ferdman’s portrayal of Davis not only showed a darker side of mankind, but gave that darkness a deteriorated soul to suck up the pain of those around him and spit it back into their mouths. Showing just a shred of vulnerability towards the end, Ferdman’s performance penetrated the audience and left us disgusted, yet satisfied.
Red Light Winter played this past weekend at Hub 14 (14 Markham Street, Toronto). It has completed its run.