After watching John Logan’s latest show, “Red,” you will never look at the color the same again.
In this drama, laced with comedy, Alfred Molina and Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) spend 90 minutes of witty repartee debating the notion of real art. However, in the midst of their jousting are moments in which they deliberate about the true meaning and calling of one’s life.
Life and art are what are at play in this heady, urbane erudite production, which showcases the magnificence of Molina, who splendidly puts on an acting clinic. If you’re not up on the classics, or who is who in the art world, you may not get all of the jokes. However, you will certainly get the gist.
The two-person drama takes place in the New York art studio of Mark Rothko (Molina), a noted painter who takes on an assistant (Groff) straight out of art school. From the very beginning the two bump heads.
Though Rothko feels the threatening presence of a new generation of artists, he tells his assistant, “There is only one thing I fear in life, my friend…. One day the black will swallow the red.”
“Red” is about what happens when an artist/rebel who despises the establishment suddenly works for the same group by accepting a commission to paint pictures for an uptown restaurant called the Four Seasons.
Until the moment he accepted the job, Rothko had spent his life painting pictures that he wanted people to actually feel. He wanted his work to tear the heart out of people. He is known for paintings that seem to pulsate with a life force of their own.
Mark Rothko, was an actual Russian-American painter, classified as an abstract expressionist. He died in 1970 at the age of 67.
Groff is efficient and effective as the assistant who goes from being in awe of his employer to confronting and questioning his acceptance to work on such a commercial project.
“Red”, which opened in London in 2009, then Broadway in 2010, garnered the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway.
The Donmar Warehouse production is directed by Michael Grandage.
“Red” features set and costume design by Christopher Oram, lighting design by Neil Austin and music composition and sound design by Adam Cork. Casting is by Anne McNulty and Erika Sellin and the production stage manager is David S. Franklin.
“Red” runs at the Mark Taper Forum through Sept. 9. Tickets and information are available at CenterTheatreGroup.org, the CTG box office located at the Ahmanson Theatre, or by calling (213) 628-2772.
On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Red” gets an E (excellent).