Who the Frak is Mark Rothko?

Review of RED at Seattle Rep by Joyce R.

Photo by Chris Bennion

Who the frak is Mark Rothko?

A dead man. Quite literally, he committed suicide in 1970. So we may never know who Mark Rothko really was, but if RED, regardless of its fictional nature, has any truth in it about Rothko, he is an artist who demanded you to think more, and to think more deeply. He is a man that makes me embarrassed for ever thinking that contemporary abstract art was nothing but scribbles that a kindergartener could have done.

It is a sad epidemic that today, with the excess of information we receive, very few teens will recognize his name.

A sad epidemic that RED is working to cure.

On a superficial level, RED is amazingly entertaining. Although nothing terribly exciting is happening, and there are no giant plot twists, John Logan, the playwright, is able to use the lack of big actions to give deeper insight on the characters, and really develop the characters and their relationship with each other and the world.

If that’s not convincing enough, Logan also wrote the screenplay for Hugo, Sweeney Todd, and Gladiator.

Original Teen Tix Heartthrob Connor Toms and Denis Arndt in RED. Photo by Chris Bennion

Additionally, Richard E.T. White, the director, uses the setting so effectively to move the story along. Not only is the stage set so realistically, and the lighting used to communicate rather than just to light, but he employs the fact that the two characters are artists. For example, one scene is just the two artists painting. No words, no background actions. Just prepping the canvas, and just one color: Red.

It is enthralling.

No, I’m not kidding.

But the real aspects of the play that make it worthwhile are not the superficial ones, but the deeper ones. Because RED, like all good art, demands thought. Thoughts beyond just how amazing the set looks, while it does look amazing. Thoughts beyond "that was cool" or "ooo, I've never seen that before," though you will find yourself thinking those at one time or another.

But thoughts on life and death, and above all, art.

And RED will implant the beginnings of those thoughts in your mind, waiting for you to explore them.

Just like Rothko.

So, to all those who have never heard of Rothko and those who have stopped thinking: get your nose out of SparkNotes with their pre-digested summaries and motifs, and go see RED.

And then of course, above all, think!

Extended through March 24th due to popular demand!
More info at seattlerep.org
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