Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RED by John Logan SCR and Rothko

Born in Russia.  Moved to Oregon.  A maverick from the start, Mark Rothko (Mark Harelik) and his enormous ego are brought to life in  RED, John Logan’s wordy and emotional peek into Rothko’s studio (no natural light) where he has in production a series of paintings to decorate the new Four Seasons Restaurant in a monument to wealth:  the Seagram Building designed by Mies Van der Rohe and Philip Johnson.  Rothko accepts $35,000.00 (amounting to almost $300,000.00 in today’s economy) to create the series of murals.  Ken (Paul David Story), a new assistant arrives to help Rothko with the project. 
Mark Harelik and Paul David Story

Rothko announces that he is Ken’s employer and not a litany of other relationships including ‘mentor’ and ‘father’ as he launches directly into mentoring mode. Logan’s dialogue is crisp and deep.  For students of Contemporary Art, the story enlightens with insights into the rage and depth of Mark Rothko and his extraordinary works of art.

As Rothko, Harlik carries the piece in fits and starts.  Embodying the artist physically, he finds moments of clarity and moments of rage, exploding at  Story/Ken who simply answers a question that he thinks has been directed to him.  Jackson Pollock enters the discussion.  Rothko accuses Pollock of suicide.  Incredulous, Ken remembers that Pollock died in a car accident.  To which Rothko responds that the evidence of alcohol abuse and the difficulty of handling fame as an artist drove the splatter painter to his death.  “Believe me,” announces Rothko, “when I commit suicide there won't be any doubt about it!”

Rothko ended his own life with no ambiguity about ten years later. 

Ken’s evolution in the relationship with Rothko is fascinating to experience with somewhat uncomfortable blackouts that signal time change.  Rothko’s ego is so engaged with his own work that the Tigers at the gates of Abstract Expressionism: Rauschenberg, Johns, Lichstenstein, Warhol, et al, that he thinks that Johns is out to kill him!  Imagining Warhol on display in perpetuity makes him scoff.

After two years working for the artist; having absorbed Rothko’s tutelage, Ken announces that abstract expressionism is dead.  PopArt is undeniable, exploding back at the master to virtually declare his own independence. The 1960s are at the doorstep and times are changing.

Comparing the performances of Harelik and Story to Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne, the originators of these roles, is not a fair comparison, but Harelik and Story’s dedication to the words and the arcs of their characters is undeniable.

SCR Founder David Emmes direction creates beautiful stage pictures on Ralph Funicello’s highly functional set.  The absence of a work table to construct stretcher frames makes the construction of a frame that leads to a highlight of the show is a mystery. 

RED by John Logan
Directed by David Emmes
South Coast Repertory Theatre
655 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, California  92626

(Copied from the SCR Press Release)
 There are no Monday performances.
    • Evening Performances:
    • Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Jan. 30, 31, Feb. 2 and 3; Feb. 7, 9, and 10; and Feb. 14, 16 and 17, at 7:30 p.m.
    • Thursdays-Saturdays, Jan. 30, Feb. 4-6, Feb. 11-13 and Feb. 18-20, at 8 p.m.
    • Matinee Performances:
    • Saturdays-Sundays, Jan. 30-31, Feb. 6-7, Feb. 13-14, and Feb. 20-21, at 2:30 p.m.
    • ASL-interpreted: Saturday, Feb. 20, at 2:30 p.m.
  • Post-Show Discussions: Wednesday, Feb. 3, and Tuesday, Feb. 9. Discuss the play with cast members of Red during free post-show discussions led by South Coast Repertory’s literary team. Segerstrom Stage.
  • Pre-Show Lecture: Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. Enjoy a half-hour pre-show lecture with Todd Smith, CEO and director of the Orange County Museum of Art, about Mark Rothko and his art, followed by a performance of Red.
  • Inside the Season: Saturday, Feb. 6, from, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Led by members of SCR’s literary staff, this lively two-hour session features in-depth interviews with cast members and artists from the production staff, revealing secrets and offering insights into SCR’s production of Red.  Segerstrom Stage. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased in advance or at the door.
Location: South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, at the Bristol Street/Avenue of the Arts exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway in the David Emmes/Martin Benson Theatre Center, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Parking is available on Park Center Drive, off Anton Boulevard.

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