“RED” A SPLASH OF COLOR AT HARTFORD THEATERWORKS
The abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkovitz in Russia in 1903, created more than eight hundred paintings in his lifetime, a few breaking selling records at $22.5 million, $30 million and even $72.8 million.
Playwright John Logan has taken one period in the life of Mark Rothko and fashioned his scrupulous attention on it, a spotlight if you like, and entitled it simply “RED,” a color the painter favored. Red can mean vermillion, crimson, scarlet, plum, ruby or maroon and “RED” focuses on all its aspects and particularities.
TheaterWorks of Hartford will be casting a speculative eye on “RED” to catch all the interactions of painter and canvas and viewer until Sunday, May 6.
Rothko dabbled with work in the garment district of New York and with acting in Portland, Oregon before he picked up a paintbrush and saw art as a life’s journey for both religious and emotional expression. The play “RED” deals with a period when he has found some success, with Peggy Guggenheim as a patron, with works hanging in the Museum of Modern Art, with solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. He is given a new major commission.
Architects Mies Van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, designers of a new building on Park Avenue, the Seagram edifice, want Rothko to provide paintings for its luxury restaurant, The Four Seasons. This challenging project for which he paints forty large canvases with horizontal and rectangular shapes in a variety of shades of red consumes him.
Jonathan Epstein is Rothko in all his bombastic and egotistical splendor, a man obsessed as much by his talents as by his doubts. To him his larger than life paintings are a “continuous narrative...10% paint on canvas, 90% thinking.” He wants to make the restaurant a temple and, at the same time, make it impossible for the patrons to eat anything while sitting under his work.
To help him attack the blank canvases, intimidating in their whiteness, he hires a young assistant, portrayed by an eager to learn Thomas Leverton, who gets quite an education under Rothko’s abrasive and intimidating tutelage. Director Tazewell Thompson presides over this dramatic play of insights and aspirations with a keen eye for detail.
For tickets ($50-63), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Come early for the exhibit of art by woman prisoners in the Gallery of American Art upstairs, sponsored by The Hartford Financial Services Group.
Will Mark Rothko compromise his artistic principles if he completes a monumental mural for a commercial venue? Come to his studio, hand him a paintbrush, and discover the intriguing answer for yourself.