RED by John Logan, which is playing at the GableStage Theatre through December 4th offers an interesting and personal look at the famed Abstract Expressionist, Mark Rothko, during a period in the late 1950s. The production opened this week, but was kicked off with a special event at MOCA, where Bonnie Clearwater (MOCA’s Executive Director ) who literally wrote the book on Rothko, had a chance to interview the artist (in the person of actor Gregg Weiner) using text from Logan’s play.
The play itself takes place during the period from 1958-1959, when Rothko was commissioned to paint a series to hang in the Four Season's Restaurant housed in the newly constructed (and designed by Phillip Johnson) Seagram's Building and through the play we watch as the artist struggles with the idea of his work hanging in this monument to wealth and excess.
Gregg Weiner as Rothko, channels the artist by drawing upon his photographs and writings and he is able to fully realize the "character" through interactions with his protégé/employee (played by recent NWSA Alum Ryan Didato). Their interactions turn from cold and scholarly to passionate and angry, with no warning and that makes the production exciting even for someone with little background on the tumultuous modern art scene of the period.
Ultimately RED is less about art than relationships, which is the more important theme of Logan’s work. The production, directed by GableStage’s Producing Artistic Director, Joseph Adler, leaves the audience as exhausted as the two man cast by the end which exactly what live theater ought to do.