Sex & a single girl

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LOVE ACTUALLY | A prostitute (Natalie Young) toys with two men (Alex Organ, Drew Wall).

Love triangles and dark turns in ‘Red Light Winter’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

I wouldn’t call Red Light Winter the most enjoyable 2-1/2 hours I’ve spent at the theater recently, but it certainly ranks among the most memorable. I mean both in the best sense: This is serious theater full of ideas and deep emotion and handled with a power and sensitivity that can be arresting. It’s also a brutal mindfuck that feels borne of genuine ache.

Matt (Drew Wall) is a tortured playwright vacationing with his best friend Davis (Alex Organ) in Amsterdam. During the wordless opening sequence, we see Matt seized with such pain he makes a lame, failed attempt at suicide. Then Davis arrives with Christina (Natalie Young), a prostitute from the city’s famed red light district, who agrees to sleep with Matt to get him out of his doldrums.

What is intended by all parties as a meaningless shag, though, escalates into a complex love triangle, as Matt becomes smitten with Christina (by Act 2, it has reached the point of obsession) and Christina finds she holds undeniable feelings for Davis, who is himself married to Matt’s ex-fiancee. All that’s missing is Jerry Springer.

On paper, Red Light Winter might sound like a Hollywood romantic comedy, but despite a strong thread of humor, it’s a dark, fatalistic view of love.

The greatest weakness of the play is one of its essential conceits: The relationship between Matt and Davis. Davis is such a amazing prick, so effortlessly evil and self-involved, you cannot imagine the circumstances that would have led him to befriend Matt in the first place. We all have youthful friends we have outgrown, and have seen those types who bully their ways into the lives of weaker men, but those relationships, however dysfunctional, need to feel rooted in a shared past, a symbiosis where each feeds an emptiness in the other. It’s basically the only relationship Neil LaBute can write.

But there’s no hint of that here; when Matt describes Davis as “like a brother to me,” it rings hollow — family you’re born with, but why hang out with abusive assholes? Why does he keep Davis close him? And if they truly are so close, why is Davis surprised by Matt’s fixation on Christina?

The play’s own self-referentiality doesn’t help. This is a play about a guy writing a play about the events of the play. It’s difficult not to read a degree of autobiography into Adam Rapp’s script, which basically presents us as an audience with the dilemma of the unreliable narrator: Could the real Davis be this bad? Or the real Christina this self-destructive? Or the real Matt this fragile and victimized?

As fundamental as these shortcomings are, ultimately they do not detract significantly from the skillful handling of the rest of the material. Organ is infuriatingly effective, using his insincere, Palin-esque demagoguery to emotionally rape those around him. He uses coarseness and promiscuity as badges of honor, degrading people with his insulting, reductionist language. It’s a testament to Organ’s performance that more than once, you wanna step out of your seat, walk on stage and kick him in the nuts.

But the heavy lifting of the play is borne on the backs of Wall and Young. Wall’s always felt like a tightly-wound spring on stage, his nervous energy burning off all fat until he’s left with a lean, translucent frame from which his id is ready to burst. This is his most sophisticated role, and he’s excellent. Young, who resembles Maggie Gyllenhaal, has an amazing stage presence, her sadness drawing you in. Together they share a stark, naked (literally) intimacy that includes the most frank, explicit onstage sex since Avenue Q.

Regan Adair’s direction is unrushed and visceral, letting the action build and play out silently but with a stinging sense of desperation. Red Light Winter isn’t easy to watch, but you can’t look away.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Let the Gay Games begin! Dallas sends 40 athletes

Dallas will field more than 40 athletes at the Gay Games in Cologne later this month. Here are some of those hoping to bring home gold

Athlete: Mark LeDoux (right)
Age: 31
Day job: Anesthesiologist and interventional pain management specialist
Sport: Track and Field
Events: 4×100 meter relay, 4×200 meter relay, 200 meters, 110 meter hurdles, 200 meters, 400 meter hurdles and 800 meters.
Gay Games experience: First Gay Games
Interesting fact: Father of twin 9-year-old girls
In his own words: “Ever since I came out, I’ve wanted to do this. Things ache a lot differently than they did 10 to 11 years ago, but I draw inspiration from previous attendees and other participants.”

Athlete: Sean Faulkner (right)
Age: 40
Day job: Emergency nurse
Sport: Soccer (plays center midfield)
Gay Games experience: Faulkner will be competing in his fourth Gay Games, following Amsterdam in 1998, Sydney in 2002 and Chicago in 2006.
Interesting fact: His diving header won a match during Team Dallas’ silver medal run at the 1998 Games in Amsterdam.
In his own words: “When we meet people on the street in Europe, they’re so accepting of us that they don’t understand why we have a separate games just for gay people. They don’t view being gay as anything wrong or different; being who you are is just way more accepted in Europe.”

……………………………………..

Looking for an excuse to take advantage of a weak Euro this summer? There’s always a trip to Amsterdam’s Red Light District or jumping aboard one of those floating bathhouses known as gay cruises.

And then there’s the quadrennial Gay Games.

Starting July 31, Cologne, Germany, will host the largest LGBT sports and cultural gathering in the world. Conceived by 1968 U.S. Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell, the Gay Games were first held in San Francisco in 1982 with 1,350 participants. Organizers this year had hoped to surpass the 11,500 registrations total from the 2006 Games in Chicago, but the lingering global economic recession has tempered their expectations. But with late registration still coming in, organizers are predicting 10,000 participants.

Unlike the Olympics, athletes in the Gay Games represent their cities rather than their countries. Jere Becker, organizer of Team Dallas, says 43 local athletes will march into the historic Rhein Energie Stadion for the opening ceremonies, joining others competing in 33 team and individual sports (among them basketball, cycling, diving, figure skating, track and field and volleyball). Some non-athletic competitions (better described as disciplines than sporting events, like chess and bridge) are also included.

Most events and disciplines are classified by age or ability, so both beginners and veterans will compete against their athletic equals. Holding true to the principle of inclusion, anyone can participate, regardless of ability, age, sexual orientation, race, gender, nationality or ethnicity, religion or HIV status.

But even those who just like to watch can enjoy the cultural events that are open to the public, including a cheerleading contest, band and choral festivals, visual and performing arts performances and social events for everyone from women to bears to the leather community.

Let the games begin!

— Ricky Bradley

Gay Games VIII, from Cologne, Germany. July 31-Aug. 7. GayGamesCologne.com.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas