You stole my prostitute

Love and lust in Red Light Winter

Rogues Theatre’s upcoming show Red Light Winter tells the story of two American men one a writer the other a book editor who travel to one of Europe’s legendary sin cities Amsterdam.

The writer is a struggling depressed playwright who’s been without the company of a woman for a long time. His editor buddy decides to cheer him up by bringing by one of Amsterdam’s famous attractions — a prostitute.

In a seemingly clichéd turn of events the writer falls in love with the prostitute and she with the editor. The second act takes place in New York’s East Village a year later when as the poster advertises “they find out their lives have changed forever.”

“The play deals with falling in love with the wrong person” says director and Company of Rogues instructor Joe-Norman Shaw. “But it also deals with loneliness and friendship in this new millennium. I have a lot of young actors who read this play and say ‘This is our generation. This really speaks to us.’’

The play premièred at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2005 and was written by Adam Rapp who garnered a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the script. “He’s considered one of the up-and-coming cutting-edge writers in the U.S.” says Shaw.

While at first it may sound like nothing more than a stereotypical love triangle Shaw says “it’s provocative in its exploration of human relationships and male friendships. It challenges a lot of our ideas about what it means to be in love and the relationship between love and sex.”

Given the subject matter of the three-person show there’s strong sexual content in the play but it’s never gratuitous. “The play has both a very powerful romantic side and also quite a powerful sexually casual side” says Shaw. “The two males embody different paths. One is pursuing a more romantic view of the world. His feelings for the prostitute are grounded in trying to fulfil romantic fantasies. The other has a casualness about the whole sexual act. It’s easy for him to separate love from sex.”

Shaw says the play presents a contemporary view of relationships that may seem a little foreign to those of previous generations. “The kind of optimism I grew up with in the post-hippie generation — that we can change the world that we can love the world into a better place — I don’t know that these characters actually believe it’s possible” he says. “But they have a loneliness that makes them so compelling so human.”

Red Light Winter has a very real filmic sense about it that will be easily appreciated by an audience used to contemporary cinema. “It’s almost like an independent film onstage; a gritty irreverent film that’s a play” says Shaw.