Its an incredibly difficult task to photograph a play and pay attention to the dialogue and nuance. Its even more difficult, however, to ignore actors like Mindy Heithaus, Jon Kovach, and Carter Bratton. Under the direction of Paul Morris and the stage management of Leah Strasser, these fine performers have taken on the task of bringing Adam Rapp’s “Red Light Winter” to the intimate Clifton Performance Theater. I had the privilege of photographing their final dress rehearsal and I must admit it was not my best work. I was often times so taken with the stunning work on stage that I forgot to take pictures.
“Winter” is the story of two 30-somethings who travel to Amsterdam and meet a beguiling young woman who isn’t exactly what she seems. Act Two fast forwards a year later and more mystery unravels in such a sadly beautiful way I dare you not to gasp and/or cry as it all unfolds.
In the interest of full disclosure, Jon Kovach is a close and trusted friend of mine. He’s also one of the finest actors in the Ohio Valley. His performance of “Matt,” a neurotic insomniac playwright is pitch perfect. Kovach has this way about him; he’s intensely likable on stage even when he’s nerding it up, passionately arguing about little known plays with his best friend, “Davis” (Bratton). But he’s at his absolute best when he awkwardly confesses his unrequited love to “Christina” (Heithaus).
If Kovach is one of the most likable actors in town, Bratton is the opposite on stage. His character is one of the most despicable I’ve seen in any show. Having met and interacted with the Carter several times, I’m convinced that he is a marvelous actor and loves tapping into his “inner heel.” As Davis, he is a complete bastard who’s only redeeming quality appears to be his affection for Matt, but as the play progresses any points he scores all fade away as we see him for what he really is. Bratton is on stage the least amount of time in this show, but when he’s there he makes it count.
Finally, Mindy Heithaus as Christine is a complete breath of fresh air. I first got to see her in “Savages in Limbo” during a rehersal I also photographed and I thought she handled some less-than-inspired material in such a way that I was touched by her character’s plight despite not really understanding the point of the script. With better material like this show in her hands, she is emotionally devastating. I found myself putting my camera down and just watching her act; and while I did, my own tears welled up. To her credit, she not only made me cry but she made me gasp, sigh, and smile.
This play is relatively well-known and a feature film is even being produced starring Kirsten Dunst and Ben Foster due in theaters later this year. Its often more known for its shocking subject matter and full-frontal nudity. Morris’s direction minimizes the shock factor with appropriate use of lighting. The show is not about the sex scene; its about the raw, honest emotion from these broken and sad characters and this production interprets the material very well.
This show is not for the faint of heart, but it will touch your heart if you allow. It is not a story of redemption; you won’t leave feeling joyous and upbeat. You will leave marveling at the brave work of three incredible cast members who have poured their soul into this play.
Kudos to this underrated theatre company known as “Untethered Theater”; they continue to produce interesting works in a unique and interesting space. You can see the Red Light Winter from now until February 2nd. Click here for more details. This show contains adult themes, sexual situations, and nudity.