Skip to main content

Jan Powell

Theatre and Communications
What I do
Full C.V.
Contact Jan
Member Login
May-June 2012: Red Light Winter garners great reviews!

Theater review: 'Red Light Winter' features strong performances

Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 1:50 PM     Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 1:59 PM

By Holly Johnson, Special to The Oregonian 

"The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care," Emily Dickinson observed. 

In Adam Rapp's wrenching, desolate, flawed and nimbly funny powerhouse of a play, "Red Light Winter," the needs and wants of three diverse characters play out explosively in a cheap Amsterdam hotel room and later in a drab New York apartment. 

Red Light Winter

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through June 3rd

Where: The Brooklyn Bay, 1825 S.E. Franklin St., Bay K

Tickets: $18, $15 student, 503-890-6944,


In this inaugural offering by the new company Bad Badger Productions, director Jan Powell has carefully measured each beat of movement and motive of this long but compelling production of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Rapp wanders into a bleak, sometimes dangerous landscape of relationships, and while plenty of stuff happens and he poses glaring questions, he offers no solutions. 

In Holland's famous red-light district, a gaunt, pale playwright named Matt (the affecting Andrew Bray) hunches at his laptop, struggling with some creative writing, or possibly a good-bye message. He has decided to hang himself with his belt, a project he clearly hasn't thought out carefully, when his best pal, the macho, loquacious Davis (Brian Allard) bursts into the room with Christina, an elegant French prostitute (Jenn Gartner) in tow. 

The fact that Davis stole Matt's girlfriend and is about to marry her should give us hints to his character, and a hint to Matt's as well. How he could still remain friends with his old college pal seems hard to fathom, but the two carry on as best friends, an old habit gone sour that has lost its value as they both turn 30. 

Matt struggles as an unpublished playwright, while Davis has gone on to a successful publishing career. "He's got these genes from a super race," Matt says gloomily yet admiringly of his friend, who might be likable if he had an ounce of charm. 

Christina is apparently a sexual gift for Matt, one that the arrogant, insatiable Davis has already briefly sampled. When he goes out to do some "Amsterdamage," leaving the two alone, we realize that Matt is the central figure of the drama, trying to pull himself out of the mire of hopelessness, emerging from a shell after a long wait. 

He falls for Christina, something that shouldn't have happened, but does, and as he tries to hold onto what he believes is romantic love, a thread of hope emerges But as the plot moves along, we learn the lovely young woman has destructive cravings of her own, which only add to the despair that culminates when the final lights dim. 

The cast is excellent, and if the play doesn't appeal to you, the actors are worth seeing for their merit alone. Powell has them working seamlessly together as a sort of esthetic unit. Bray, an actor who has worked in major musicals in Portland, finds all the right nuances for Matt, who is as powerful and compelling when he listens as when he speaks. 

Allard grabs the role of Davis and runs with it, careful not too make him too appealing. Yet his villainy has a quirky tenderness to it when it comes to Matt, although he feels no guilt in purloining Matt's girlfriend. 

Gartner embraces the complexity and mystery of her mutable, uneven character: Most impressive is her marvelously quiet, statuesque presence in the first act. She's stuck with the toughest part because it's the least convincing one: Still, her Christina is a credible, even memorable, object of desire. 

The production, about 2 1/2 hours long, is drenched in Tom Waits' bittersweet music, part of which is called for in the script. As engaging as it is, it engulfs the drama. We need to feel for ourselves, not let the singer do it for us. 

The show contains adults language, nudity, sexual situations, smoking and some brief violence. It was first performed at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2005.  

Holly Johnson


                                                                                                                                           Reviews for MACBETH
                                                                                       Richmond Shakespeare, February 2012

Preview article:


         Reviews for TAMING OF THE SHREW,

         Kingsmen Shakespeare, July 2011