‘Red Light Winter’ illuminates the darkness within love

The three characters of "Red Light Winter" form a tangled triangle of unrequited love. Photo courtesy of Youngblood Theatre.

People say three’s a crowd. But three is just perfect in the Alchemist Theatre for Youngblood Theatre’s latest presentation, “Red Light Winter,” which opened last week.

Written by Adam Rapp and directed by Youngblood co-founder Benjamin James Wilson, “Red Light Winter” tells the story of former college roommates Matt (David Rothrock) and Davis (Andrew Edwin Voss), a lovely prostitute named Christina (Tess Cinpinski) and how one night in Amsterdam alters all three of their lives. The intensely emotional play contains full nudity and sexually explicit situations; it is recommended only for mature audiences.

This is actually the second time Youngblood is presenting “Red Light Winter” at the Alchemist. The show was originally intended to kick off the company’s second season in Jan. 2010, but closed early when cast member Voss was stabbed after the show’s opening weekend.

A year later, Voss has recovered and the show must go on. And it does in full force.

The play opens with Matt, a sensitive self-described nerd, alone in his hotel room, visibly depressed. His constant pacing and heavy breathing is enough to make anyone nervous, and with no dialogue in the first few minutes of the play, Rothrock’s phenomenal body language and mannerisms stretch the tension near to breaking point.

The sudden appearance of Davis, complete with a karate kick to the door, relieves the silent turmoil just in time, but the lapse in tension is an illusion created by his obnoxious energy — more awaits just outside, leaning into the half-lit doorway. There stands Christina, the young woman whose presence reignites dormant conflicts between Matt and the frat boy-esque Davis.

The relationship between the three results in a triangle of unrequited love that is only complicated further in the second act, with tragic consequences.

But the play is not all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite — despite its dark exploration of friendship, loyalty and the need to feel complete, the play is filled with just the right degree of comic relief.

The intimate setting of the 52-seat Alchemist thrusts the audience right into the action, so be prepared for quite the emotional roller coaster. You become so wrapped up in the intricacies of the characters’ lives that when the lights go up and Voss, Rothrock and Cinpinski all take a bow, it’s difficult to believe they could be anyone other than the tortured souls they’ve been portraying.

“Red Light Winter” runs at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., through Feb. 5. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.alchemisttheatre.com.