Despite a contrived story and a slackening pace you are held to the end of this play by the three bizarre characters. Two of them are American boys seeking adventure in Amsterdam. Davis is a young, motor-mouth publisher who has stumbled on success. Less successful is his travelling companion, Matt, a continually emerging playwright who begins this play by trying to hang himself.

Davis recruits a female prostitute to give him a good time and then do the same for the celibate Matt. Matt comes in seconds but is doe-eyed about the helpful Christina for the rest of the play. Christina though is inexplicably drawn instead to the dreadful Davis.

Adam Rapp’s play is a portrait of unrequited loves. It’s about immature passions built on idle comments dropped by the beloved. If we are searching for forgiveness or healing in our lives then we should seek better remedies or at least choose better partners.

Red Light Winter is frank, sexually explicit and true but somehow -“ a bit like unrequited love -“ its early promise peters away.

The second act finds Matt back in his New York bed-sit and writing another play, this time about a loving whore called Christina. As he ponders how to end this play, Christina enters clutching his address in the hope of finding Davis. Between the long pauses Rapp’s dialogue is tender and often humorous and we care for the quiet agonies of Matt and Christina. And we care enough to loathe Davis.

The miracle is that Rapp achieves this empathy for three characters who are so fortressed behind their defences. An excellent cast in this Adelaide production helps carry his play. Tamblyn Lord brings a self-deprecating wit to the nerdy dreamer Matt. Melanie Mirto is both raw and enigmatic as the lost young girl whose tragedy is well-hidden by her many accents and stories. And Steve Mouzakis is convincing as the endlessly bantering and cruel Davis, whose claustrophobic mateship with Matt hints at the homoerotic.

Director Ross Ganf lets these performances bloom but a more spirited hand is needed to drive the production. We are left feeling almost as awkward as the unrequited lovers -“ which is all a bit too close for comfort.

Red Light Winter is at the Stables Theatre until 30 June.

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