RED -- Fascinating Drama about Art

Bob and Karen Isaacs

BOB: Red, which is now at Theaterworks in Hartford, is a fascinating discussion of art and the changing of attitudes towards it as younger artists emerge and push the envelope, taking the spotlight away from the previously lionized artists.


KAREN: Red focuses on the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko and extended conversations about art he had with his assistant while Rothko was working on a commission for a series of murals for New York's famed Four Seasons restaurant.


BOB: The issue of commercialism emerges, particularly as Rothko is anti-commercial and yet accepted this commission. His young assistant finally points the reality of the commission -- that Rothko's art will be used merely decoration or background for commerce.


KAREN: This is especially meaningful since Rothko points out during the course of the play, he wants his work to speak to a thoughtful, contemplative audience. It is not likely that audience would be dining in the Four Seasons restaurant.


BOB: Donald Eastman designed the set which creates a wonderful image of Rothko's studio -- with a slew of paintings which the audience sees.


KAREN: As Rothko, Jonathan Epstein epitomizes the mature artist complete with ego -- he denigrates his contemporaries -- Pollack and others -- as well as the upcoming artists -- such as Warhol and Lichtenstein. Epstein also gives him a weariness.


BOB: The tone is struck with the title of the play -- as a Rothko's assistant Ken played by Thomas Leverton -- has to respond to Rothko's question about what Ken sees in these paintings.


KAREN: They discuss the multiple meanings and variations in the color red and the contrast with black.


BOB: Taswell Thompson directed this excellently in allowing the performers to express their differences and the playwright, John Logan's intention.


KAREN: This play won the Tony Award for best play in 2010. It is certainly a fascinating and fast-paced 90 minute discussion about art which is leavened with humor and humanity.


KAREN: Red is at TheaterWorks in Hartford, through May 6.


This review runs on WNHU 88.7 FM and on


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