RAW, SMART AND DARK

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This Season: for our theatre highlight, Emily Bobrow picks the British premiere of "Red Light Winter", a love triangle that's set in Amsterdam...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, March/April 2012

Adam Rapp is unnervingly prolific. Having written some 30 plays (many of them acclaimed, some dormant in a drawer), several novels, a handful of screenplays and other odds and ends, Rapp seems less like a 43-year-old American author and more like an agitated geyser, spewing work that feels raw and real, smart and dark. “When I start something I don’t stop until I am finished,” he has explained. “But I don’t start until it’s grabbing me by the throat.” This throat-grabbing urgency is evident in his best work, such as the mesmerising, Pulitzer-nominated “Red Light Winter”, which has its British premiere in Bath this March.

The story of a love triangle of sorts between two friends and a prostitute in Amsterdam, “Red Light Winter” crackles with electric dialogue and a grim momentum; like nearly all of Rapp’s characters, these three are doomed. But Rapp’s gift is for balancing heavy themes (loneliness, unrequited love, manipulative friendship) with a well-observed compassion. He loves his creations, and lets them say things that are funny and clever as well as conversational (“You were like kind. And it helped me…in ways that I’d need like the 12,000 semitones of dolphin language to articulate”), so their misery feels more profound. At a performance of the play in New York in 2006, I remember feeling an odd rupture when the actors exited and the lights went up. Six years on, the play was delicious to re-read, its vitality palpable even on the page. Lucky Bath.

Red Light Winter at Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath, March 1st to 31st

Emily Bobrow is a contributing editor of Intelligent Life and culture editor of The Economist online