Adam Rapp's Red Light Winter is an overlong, de-constructionist theatrical exercise in talking too much about too little, eschewing plot, saying "fuck" too fucking often and delving into personalities -- two of whom aren't deep enough for delving. The show, lethargically (make that glacially) staged by Eric Vosmeier, is playing in a rolling rep schedule with Suzan Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog through March 2 at Know Theatre of Cincinnati.
Let's get Rapp's negligible plot out of the way quickly: Uber-boor Davis (Anthony Darnell) and meta-nerd Matt (Vandit Bhatt) are inexplicably sharing a ratty hotel room in Amsterdam's red-light district. Davis hires hooker Christina (Anne Marie Carroll) to service his "friend," who hasn't had sex in three years. In Matt's Technicolor recollection of it, their 45-second speed-bump togetherness morphs into the defining event of his life.
Months later, back in New York, Act Two mostly looks back to Act One -- only Christina can't actually recall Matt's name. And, besides, she came to New York to hook up with Davis again. Why? Don't ask.
Neither Rapp, Vosmeier nor the actors make a persuasive case that the casually sadistic Davis and the introspective, deeply needy Matt would ever be friends, nor that a superficial clod like Davis has the sensitivity to succeed as a book editor. An author's agent, perhaps. Christina's attraction to Davis is sheer masochism.
Andrew Hungerford's sets are properly dreary. Opening night there were some light changes that played like mistakes. There are flashes of nudity. Darnell and Carroll, both Know veterans, give yeoman performances in their shallow roles.
For all its catalog of faults, however, this Know show is made worthy of notice by Bhatt's multi-faceted, hugely felicitous performance as Matt. The role is killer long. He never flags, loses focus or shortchanges energy. The work is so subtly revelatory that, at the end of his extraordinary performance, the audience knows Matt better than he knows himself.
RED LIGHT WINTER continues at Know Theatre through March 2. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.