“Red” by John Logan at Bas Bleu Theater closes this weekend so you have only four more chances to see this cerebral and deftly-acted play. Starring Jeffrey Bigger as late career Abstract Expressionist painter, Mark Rothko, and Nick Holland as his fictional studio assistant, these seventy-five minutes of theatrical Realism never drag.
While you don’t need a degree in modern art history to enjoy the play, it wouldn’t hurt. Despite the heady conversation about art and name dropping of Picasso, De Kooning, and Pollack, at its heart this play riffs on themes of capitalism in art, generational tension in art, and making it in art. These are all themes I’d like to see more plays examine. Hell, these are themes I’d like to see everyone examine.
While I’m rightly suspicious of the “art about art (or artists)” sub-genre, this play manages to extrapolate the conflicts about brush stroke, color, and composition to a depth beyond the literal and into the abstract, which is why I think nearly anyone, art degree or not, can find something to connect to in it. Set during Rothko’s late “red” period and his famously conflicted mural
Both actors superbly and subtly capture the particular ritualistic duet of two artists in close quarters: competitive, respectful, scornful, smug, brutal, emotive, sympathetic, and, oddly and finally, kind. Watching two performing artists of such sensitivity play two visual artists with such precision is an ekphrastic triumph.