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A CurtainUp DC Review
Both actors are superb in their roles. As one ascends and the other descends and the balance of power between them shifts, we learn more — but not enough — about what made the Russian-born Rothko the acerbic, egocentric son-of-bitch that he was. He rails against the “thinky-talky Jews” of Portland, Oregon among whom he spent his adolescence. The mere mention of artists, such as his frenemy Jackson Pollock and the younger generation of painters like Andy Warhol, sends him into a tizzy.
One scene in the 100 minute long play that stands out above the rest is Rothko’s and Ken’s priming of a canvas. They slosh on the paint as if in a fury, totally absorbing them and the audience, and when the priming is done, both painters fall into what seems like a post-coital trance as they look at their creation.
Patrick Andrews as Ken begins as a tightly-wound coil. Diminutive in size and taciturn he seems to be over-powered by the stocky Rothko. But his character is made of stern stuff — probably the result of his having spent time in foster homes after the murder of his parents — and his strengths and integrity reach a boiling point as he challenges Rothko’s acquiescence to capitalism and commercialism. Their argument is raw and intense theater, beautifully performed.
Red is also beautifully staged. Director Robert Falls lets his artists have their say equally. His direction is flawless. Todd Rosenthal’s set, a re-creation of Rothko’s no-frills New York studio seems very realistic, a place where thought abounds and painting is foremost.
Watching the painters mix paint is quite mesmerizing. It makes the audience think about color in ways that are, for some, novel. Rothko’s abhorrence of natural light makes lighting more important. How color changes depending on light as emphasized by Lighting Designer Keith Parham is revealing. Richard Woodbury’s Sound Design and original compositions enhance the action whether the record player is spinning Beethoven (Rothko’s choice) or Coltrane (Ken’s preference.) This production was previously performed at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. The original production at London’s Donmar Warehouse, with Alfred Molina and Eddie Remayne, was subsequently transferred to Broadway, where it won 6 Tony’s. (Elyse Sommer's review).
Playwright and scriptwriter John Logan says on Arena’s blog that Red is about young/old, red/black, teacher/student and father/son. How one supersedes the other is at the heart of the script; however, those points are repeated a little too often. It’s a small quibble but, I think, justified. It would be a pity, however, if the American theater lost John Logan’s dramatic voice as his career is clearly on the rise. Hugo, a book he adapted for the screen, is up for 11 Academy Awards.
Book of Mormon -CD
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Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company