‘Red,’ stirring theater, pleasing writing

At a commencement of John Logan’s 2009 play “Red,” a immature male enters a studio of Mark Rothko. It’s transparent from his hesitant demeanour and grave dress that he’s a supplicant, a claimant for a position.

And what happens subsequent is maybe a many riveting pursuit talk in a story of drama. Rothko faces a audience, gazing earnestly during a portrayal that hangs on an hypothetical wall that stands where we sit. And he asks a candidate, “What do we see?”

From that impulse on, a claimant and a assembly are held adult in a inhuman discuss about art that plays out in a context of a staggering act of origination — and an unusual artistic struggle. Rothko had recently supposed a abounding elect to paint murals unfailing for a walls of a Four Seasons grill in New York’s Seagram’s Building — a plan that would take years, and plea Rothko’s notions of artistic integrity.

The play brings a assembly directly into that part and into a studio where Rothko (J. Barrett Cooper) and his partner Ken (Brandon Meeks) argue, discuss and work.

The book is abounding in allusions — Rothko tells Ken that he can’t know Jackson Pollock’s work but reading Nietzsche, and can’t know art but reading Byron, Aeschylus, Schopenhauer, anthropology, mythology and more.

But this is not educational banter. For Rothko, it’s a life-and-death onslaught to expose a stress of life itself around a tangible work of creation art.

And work they do. The theatre is non-stop adult for this prolongation to emanate a warehouse-like studio space. The studio is populated with vast reproductions of Rothko works (painted by Petersen Thomas). And a spattered studio is versed with a collection of a operative artist — including a set of crane able of hoisting a staggering board into operative position.

In one extraordinary sequence, Rothko — played with dim loftiness in Cooper’s pretentious opening — mixes paint while he talks about Pollock’s genocide and a comfortless inlet of art. Meanwhile, Ken stretches a canvas. The dual work together to hang a canvas. Rothko pauses to put an LP on his turntable. And then, as a “Kyrie Eleison” from Mozart’s Requiem Mass throbs and pulses, they lift their far-reaching brushes and conflict a board like warriors in demoniac battle, decoration it in a shade of red that will trigger memories for both Ken and Rothko — and remind us that “red” can meant many things.

And, in fact, a definition of “red” is a fascinating thesis via a play. Director Steve Woodring elicits virtuosic performances from both players. Earlier in a play, there’s a stage where Ken has a benevolence to offer Rothko a suggestion, a painter goes into a tirade. And a dual join in conflict in a kind of Mozartean “list aria” as they one-up any other with shades of red: a heartbeat, passion, wine, arterial blood, apples, tomatoes, decay on a bike, crimson slippers — a firebombing of Dresden…

Later, as Ken grows excitable and starts to hurdles Rothko’s peremptory manner, both Meeks and Cooper open new doors into a minds and hearts of their characters. And in an unusually abounding impulse of truth, a shade of red shapes a romantic consummate of a play as well.

This is stirring theater. It’s beautifully written, beautifully acted and strenuously staged by Tom Tutino (set design); Keith Kimmel (lighting); Mia Seitz (costumes); Bekah Aebersold (properties); Sidney King (sound); Alice Baldwin (props designer) and David Chack (dramaturg).

The prolongation is also a initial installment of a Bunbury-ShPiel Identity Theatre Project, that involves partnership with ShPiel-Performing Identity from Chicago. The plan will continue with some-more plays and a accumulation of preparation and overdo initiatives. For information, check with Bunbury.

‘Red’ by John Logan
Through Mar 4
Bunbury Theatre
604 S. Third St.
Times and prices vary

Opening this weekend:

Lynn Nottage is among a many successful and critical museum artists of a time. She warranted a MacArthur Grant in 2007 (that’s a one colloquially famous as a “Genius” award). She is a initial lady ever to win dual Pulitzer Prizes for play (most recently in 2017 for “Sweat.”)

She also happens to be an African-American whose endless and sundry physique of work delves deeply into questions about competition and gender in America.

Nottage’s play “Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine” tells a story of a successful African-American lady — a energy in a glorious attention — whose life unexpected turns topsy-turvy. Her tumble takes her behind to her roots in a satirical scrutiny of identity. When it premiered in New York, it garnered good reviews and warranted Nottage an Obie Award.

The UofL Theatre Arts Department, that is entertainment an whole deteriorate of plays by women, opens a prolongation this Friday. It belongs on your calendar. •

‘Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine’ by Lynn Nottage
Friday, Feb, 23–March 4
The UofL Playhouse
1911 S. Third St.
Times and prices vary

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