Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Indie play creates bare, ‘4-D’ realism

The play just wouldn’t have been the same if the toilet hadn’t flushed.

Communication senior Michael Kessler brought Amsterdam’s Red Light District to Evanston’s Cafe Ambrosia Friday and Saturday with “Red Light Winter,” an Adam Rapp play that Kessler staged independent of any Northwestern student theater groups. As such, Kessler said, the extraneous clatter and accidental noises helped reinforce the play’s realism.

“We’re lucky, because our play is set in a hostel and an apartment,” he said.

In one scene, a toilet flushed on the floor above as two characters discussed intestinal disease. Communication junior and audience member Dave Collins said the inadvertent noises made it a “4-D production,” especially when some of them coincided with the script.

“The set looked good, even when the ambient noises were rattling. It helped the show get what it was going for,” Collins said.

Communication senior Mark Kendall, the play’s producer, said the atmosphere of Cafe Ambrosia fit the atmosphere of the play.

“The play is stripped-down and bare,” Kendall said. “And (Cafe Ambrosia) is stripped-down and bare and has more of an intimate setting.”

Manini Gupta, a Communication senior who played the prostitute Christina, said she doesn’t think the play would have had the same effect had it been performed “in a huge auditorium in front of 1,000 people.”

“When you’re that close, when you can see every movement, every glance, every gesture; it’s more like film,” Gupta said. “It puts the actors and the audience in a much more vulnerable place.”

Staging a production independently of established NU theater groups presented its own unique challenges and advantages, Kessler said.

The cast and crew raised money by writing parent letters, holding a bake sale and soliciting gifts from Evanston businesses, said Kessler, who also applied for funding from the Dean’s Advisory Council in the School of Communication to offset some of the play’s costs.

Kessler said he was happy to pull together a team at shorter notice than most on-campus productions.

“There’s not a shortage of people like that at NU, who want to just play,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing, we’re playing … (I said) I want to do this play, and I want to do it now. That’s what doing it independently has allowed.”

Sex, attempted suicide and drugs were featured in the story line, but Kessler said the play is all about relationships and “the need to connect with another person.”

“Those are elements that are in the text, but I think they exemplify the measures that the characters will take to fulfill their emptiness or to relate to each other,” he said. “It could be an indictment of the culture or what have you, or an honest representation of just some human behavior.”

Gupta said she thought some people might not have been able to see past the provocative content.

“The only thing is that I did not tell my parents to come,” she said. “I don’t really mind who else came to see it, but as long as my mom and dad weren’t there, I was fine.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Indie play creates bare, ‘4-D’ realism