Following the production of Freud’s Last Session, a philosophical debate between two of the world’s greatest thinkers, Theatrical Outfit presents another two-person dialogue with its Atlanta premiere of John Logan’s Red. This time the match-up is between two artists: one famous and one aspiring.
Mark Rothko has been an interesting and pivotal figure in art history, and the play Red provides an in-depth look into the mind of Rothko during one of the turning points in his career. The Theatrical Outfit production of the Tony Award® winning play takes the audience on a journey into the meaning of art and life.
Directed by David de Vries and starring Tom Key and Jimi Kocina, the play follows Rothko and his assistant during the period of time when Rothko was painting a mural for the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building off of Fifth Avenue in New York City. Taking place over a few years, the play examines the relationship between the two as well as their differing views on art and the artistic process. The two characters seem to represent the strain between two artistic movements.
The production features an complex set, designed by Lee Maples. A complete, working workshop, the two-tiered set transports the audience into Rothko’s world. No detail has been left out of the design. The lighting design by Joseph A. Futral complements the set’s intricate features.
With Red, Logan has done an exceptional job at painting an intimate portrait of Rothko as a man and an artist. The play as a whole, however, is not entirely as clever as the quips he has written for Rothko to dish out. Moments of brilliance are scattered between a “who’s who” of famous artists that break the momentum of emotion of his well-crafted characters.
Kocina displays considerable poise and maturity in the role of Ken, Rothko’s assistant, and he delivers a subtle, but strong performance. His portrayal of the young, budding artist, who clashes with Rothko at times, provides much of the heart of the play. He is a perfect match for Key, and one scene between the two is particularly thrilling. During the scene, the two “prime the canvas,” and it gives the audience a sense of watching a competition. The hard work it took to accomplish the timing of the feat is to be commended.
Key’s remarkable transformation as Rothko is breathtaking. Each detail of his portrayal of Rothko from his gestures to his dialect has been carefully crafted. The intensity he brings to his performance allows audience members a glimpse into the multifaceted passion Rothko had for his work. As with looking at one of Rothko’s paintings, each audience member may see something different with this production, but one thing that will be clear to everyone is the extraordinary achievement of Key’s performance.
Theatrical Outfit’s production of Red plays at the Balzer Theater at Herren’s through March 11. The play runs approximately 90 minutes without intermission. For more information call 678-528-1500, or for tickets call 1-877-725-8849 or visit Theatrical Outfit’s website.
– A. Wesley