Deep in the catacombs of ACT's complex, Azeotrope Theatre has created a little window peeking into the darkness. Directed by company co-founder and co-Artistic Director Desdemona Chiang, the double bill of "25 Saints" by Joshua Rollins and Adam Rapp's "Red Light Winter" is one of those theatre experiences that lingers long after blackout. Both plays explore the delicacy of relationship inequality and the painful realization that not only can such disparity exist, but that cruelty can lie deep inside the heart of someone you love. The material may be dark, but there is something exhilarating and inspiring about the level of artistry on display.
"Red Light Winter" features the amazing acting talents of Richard Nguyen Sloniker, Tim Gouran, and Mariel Neto. Sloniker, Gouran, and Neto also appear in "25 Saints," with the equally talented Libby Barnard, Mary Bayley, and James Lapan. Chiang's actors truly live on stage. There are stretches of quiet where the characters exist in their space, putting things away, looking for an item, applying deodorant. The audience watches the fish bowl and, inexplicably, it's riveting. Forgive the philosophical lamentation, but could it be that in an age where person-to-person contact is dwarfed by cyber-connection that the simple act of folding underwear or making tea is actually touching? Or is it that the characters' despair is so palpable to the audience, sitting only rows away from the wrinkles of anguish, that the mundane is a relief? The worlds of both these plays are so real that the audience never sees the actor make the decision to move onto the next beat. What a unique opportunity to see talented actors work in close quarters.
It would be remiss not to add a tip of the hat to the rest of the creative team, including the detailed yet versatile scenic design by Catherine Cornell, lighting design by Andrew D. Smith, costume design by Christine Tschirgi, and sound design by Evan Mosher. In such a small space, the result of all these combined elements is immediate and effective.
Both plays have intense twists and turns, so this review won't go into serious detail, but here's the brief scoop on both. "25 Saints" is about people cooking meth in a woodsy Appalachian cabin and, to put it lightly, things go awry. "Red Light Winter" is about two college buddies in a hostel in Amsterdam's red light district who encounter a prostitute. Hilarity ensues! (just kidding -- though both plays have, thankfully, plenty of tension-breaking dark humor) It's hard to say if seeing them both makes for a more complete experience, but tickets for both cost $50 and it would be money well spent. They are both magnificent pieces of theatre and it's impossible to choose which is better. It's more a question of what you can stomach. "Red Light Winter" is an emotional kick to the gut (you should expect no less from playwright Adam Rapp). "25 Saints" has some catharsis, but it ain't like you're going to be skipping blithely out of the theatre. Truly what you should be taking away is that Azeotrope is producing some seriously fine work that is not to be missed.
RED LIGHT WINTER by Adam Rapp
25 SAINTS by Joshua Rollins
Azeotrope / ACT Central Heating Lab
ACT, Eulalie Scandiuzzi Space, 700 Union Street, Downtown Seattle
Now thru November 24, 2013
Tickets: $25-30 (206) 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org
Red Light Winter contains full frontal male and female nudity and adult themes. It is recommended for ages 18 and over. 25 Saints is recommended for ages 14 and over.