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Staged in a small, intimate theatre with just a few rows of seats on three sides around a square stage, it felt, looked, and even smelled! Oil paint replicas of some of Rothko's paintings were created especially for the set and hung on the fourth wall, giving off that unmistakable artist-studio scent of linseed oil. I bought the script so I could revisit the play in my imagination. Jul 05, Mark Johnson rated it really liked it. In this two character play, John Logan, who wrote the screenplays for 'The Gladiator', 'The Aviator' and last year's 'Hugo', imagines the course of a relationship between abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, who, at age 56, has attained the pinnacle of fame and success, and a young artist who has agreed to work as Rothko's assistant as he prepares the series of paintings he was commissioned to create for The Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan's Seagram Center.

The biographical elements In this two character play, John Logan, who wrote the screenplays for 'The Gladiator', 'The Aviator' and last year's 'Hugo', imagines the course of a relationship between abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, who, at age 56, has attained the pinnacle of fame and success, and a young artist who has agreed to work as Rothko's assistant as he prepares the series of paintings he was commissioned to create for The Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan's Seagram Center. The biographical elements in the play are, for the most part, accurate, and many of Rothko's lines in the play are taken directly from his writings or remarks he made to interviewers.

The setting, however, and the technique of applying the base coat of maroonish paint to the canvasses in a fast and furious dance of master and apprentice, are actually taken from a later period in Rothko's career when he was working on the massive canvasses for the Rothko Chapel.

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Logan can be forgiven this minor historical inaccuracy, because the dramatic effect is stunning. This is first and foremost a play of ideas, and much of the dramatic tension is achieved by playing opposite ideas against each other: age and youth, life and death, red and black "black is the opposite of red", Rothko declares at one point , the Apollonian and the Dionysian Rothko was profoundly influenced by Nietzsche's essay "The Birth of Tragedy". Some knowledge of Rothko's life and works would be helpful for a full appreciation of this drama.

At the very least, one should know that Rothko killed himself by slashing his wrists twenty-one years after the events depicted in the play took place. Rothko's speech is erudite, bristling with cultural allusions which he fires like bullets toward Ken, his young assistant. Ken, however, has fairly effective body armor, and proves a worthy opponent in the battle of wills.

I thoroughly enjoyed this play, and I would recommend who isn't offended by a theatrical entertainment that assumes the viewer has what used to be called "a classic liberal education". Don't bring the kids. Apr 11, Trevor rated it really liked it Shelves: literature. Went to see this during the week. Quite a remarkable play. This is, in part, a play about those being painted. I knew, or vaguely remembered, Rothko had committed suicide, but could remember nothing of the details of that at all as I was watching the play.

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What was interesting here was that after the show I looked up Wiki on him and found that his suicide is virtually acted Went to see this during the week. What was interesting here was that after the show I looked up Wiki on him and found that his suicide is virtually acted out during the play, but with a much happier ending. It was a very interesting twist to the whole thing. And if not, why do Americans with bad American accents in Australia?

And everyone's clever and everyone's laughing and everyone's investing in this or that and everyone's on this charity board or that and everyone's jetting off here or there and no one looks at anything and no one thinks about anything and all they do is chatter and bark and eat and the knives and forks click and clack and the words cut and the teeth snap and snarl.

Jan 13, Timothy McNeil rated it it was amazing Shelves: literature , plays.


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Perhaps I am being slightly generous with the five star rating I cannot help but imagine that the play is much better performed than it is written, though it is written quite well. Perhaps not. It is the first thing I have really enjoyed in quite some time. John Logan's Red succeeds so wildly -- maybe -- because it is a simple commentary that is open to boundless interpretation: Nothing is Ever Good Enough.

Framed within the Rabbinical tone complete with Socratic method , it delivers a much mo Perhaps I am being slightly generous with the five star rating I cannot help but imagine that the play is much better performed than it is written, though it is written quite well. Framed within the Rabbinical tone complete with Socratic method , it delivers a much more poignant point than when the same message is made small and WASPish see That Awkward Moment for a second hand take on the message, where an imagined domineering mother stands in for the 'artist' and her son for the 'art'.

It may be the most true self-imposed problem an artist can have. They lessen it by their praise and acclaim. The light, the setting, the motivation all seek to subvert the meaning and meaningfulness of the art. And the last one is probably that which everyone who has ever attempted to create art visual, musical, etc.

Ego aside, the artist is measured by what he or she produces and how it is received.


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  • Logan's play probably could have been slightly longer, but within its few pages it makes excellent use of the limited discussions by having the revisits of them show not only time and growth, but the ultimate frustration of trying to hide behind a wall of pedantic blather. Rothko is not so much not listening to Ken as he simply not listening to their conversations. These interactions are really meant, for Rothko, to act as a buffer from having to deal with his own fear and insecurities while never getting to know his forty-hour-a-week assistant.

    It is stand-offishness dressed up as the worst kind of paternalism. Still, Logan makes it enjoyable by finding a way to make it feel as though he is merely dramatizing the constant relationship between the generations. I think plays on audio don't generally come across very well. It's one thing if you're following the script and can tell who the characters are since we lack the physical cues and can sometimes only identify characters by voice or if you know the play well.


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    • Otherwise, you can be lost. Red is the exception. Only two characters--the towering Rothko with an outsized ego and temper and his hesitant new assistant Ken. What a performance from Molina; we don't need to see what's happen, we can imagin I think plays on audio don't generally come across very well. What a performance from Molina; we don't need to see what's happen, we can imagine it all from the words and passion.

      He did play the role in London and on Broadway. Groff as Ken is the perfect foil, verbally abused but lured into philosophical discussions of art.

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      And color. I like the LA theatre Works productions because we also hear the audience reaction. As well. I've seen this on stage--though not with Molina--but it didn't affect me as much as this performance did.

      View 1 comment. Aug 03, Si Squires-Kasten rated it really liked it Shelves: plays. I was dreading this play, because biographical plays about important artists are always excruciating, but John Logan presents an awesome challenge to designers that in the right hands could live up to the legacy of the artist it portrays. It's a play I could see myself directing; it's not at all like the things I like to write.

      I imagine the playing space becoming the inside of Rothko's head, overwhelming and beautiful and depressing and ultimately smaller than he thinks. Apr 24, Victoria rated it it was amazing Shelves: plays , a-play-a-day-in This is one of the best plays I've ever read. It has a lot to say about art and artists.

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      How to Act Around Cops

      It veers cerebral at times, but the playwright always brings us back down to earth. Feb 19, Johnny rated it it was amazing Shelves: drama , new-york , celebrity. Red may on first glance seem like a gimmick of a play in which Logan uses the eccentric Mark Rothko to convey some tired positions on the balance of commerce and art, yet there is far more depth to this play. The conceit is simple enough: Rothko has hired a bright-eyed and idealistic assistant named Ken to help him complete the series of murals he has been commissioned to paint for New York's Four Seasons Restaurant.

      Over the course of the play, Rothko conveys his many conflicting thoughts on ar Red may on first glance seem like a gimmick of a play in which Logan uses the eccentric Mark Rothko to convey some tired positions on the balance of commerce and art, yet there is far more depth to this play.

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      Over the course of the play, Rothko conveys his many conflicting thoughts on art as he teaches his young protege the ins and outs of the business of art. At several points, the two reference a painting hung on the fourth wall, so that the characters are speaking directly to the audience. The opening lines of the play have Rothko telling Ken to look at this imagined painting, to "get close.

      Let it pulsate.

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      Let it work on you Let it wrap its arms around you; let it embrace you On the surface, his comments are the banal thoughts of a dramatized artist's idiosyncrasies, but beneath that are Logan 's comments about his own craft and art. Playwriting is a form of artistic expression that cannot survive without it being commercialized to a certain extend.

      Is a play being absorbed as art if it isn't being performed? Can a play have longevity as a piece of art if no one will pay to see it? I found myself consistently asking these questions as I read the play, and they helped move the play beyond the same old questions about whether artists must suffer for their art to a more important level. Apr 03, Roderick Vincent rated it it was amazing. A wonderful play about art and its significance to those who create it, in this case Rothko. I read this online here. I've never cared much for Rothko's art but nevertheless am fascinated by the appeal he has for so many.

      When I heard about this play, I was curious as to how the artist was treated. I haven't gone to the theater in years and when I did, I only attended contemporary plays that were chosen by friends - my own preferences were either classics, musical theater, or opera. Red remin I read this online here. Red reminded me of another play I read a few years ago, Taking Sides , about the de-Nazification hearings of Wilhelm Furtwangler. It too was basically a two man show, though there the characters, as prosecutor and defendant, had an even more adversarial relationship, which automatically embodied a certain amount of drama.

      In Red however, the conflict is rather minimal, though "Rothko" does bully his assistant Ken to some extent, basically goading him to take more-or-less adversarial stands in their discussions. These discussions, mainly about art and the role of artists, form the meat of the play, though there are passages, such as the scene where the two prepare a canvas, which I understand work choreographically in the theater. As a reading experience, the discussions of what it eans to "sell out" as an artist and the impermanence of any given aesthetic in the flux of changing fashions are interesting.

      As with My Dinner with Andre , it rather surprises me that a good number of people are willing to go to the theater to hear what is basically a staged philosophical discussion. Ken, who has been rather nondescript at this point, though we know he has ambitions to be painter, suddenly reveals a horrifying incident in his past. What happened to your parents? Yes you do.