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First I liked it, then I thought, nyah-nyah, and now, two days later, I can’t get it out of my head.  Sure sign it’s a good play.

It’s a rant punctuated by long silences, with a bloody, gutsy, painful recollection in the middle of it.  Rothko’s assistant is doing the talking while he mops up the red paint on the floor.  If you’ve ever felt frustrated because nobody has a definition of art, go see this play, pay attention and when the boy mops up the red stuff, don’t think for a minute this scene is about making the stage floor neat and safe.  That scene is the core of this play.  If you get it, you’re not likely to feel the need for a definition of art again.

“Red”  is a one-and-a-half hour play without intermission in which Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is portrayed at work and arguing with his new assistant, a young artist, who is excoriated by Rothko because he hasn’t read Nietzsche. “What do they teach you in art school!”  Indeed.

Since the proscenium forms the fourth wall of the studio which presumably would be covered by paintings-in-progress,   it happens more than once that Rothko and the assistant stand facing that “wall” with Rothko asking “what do you see?”   Of course, he’s asking us.  The silences in this play are important.  Rothko tells the assistant, 10% of the work is spent actually painting, the rest is thinking, looking, meditating.  The audience was not fidgety.  The silences really were silent.  There was much to absorb.

The last day to see “Red” by John Logan at the Goodman Theater will be a week from now, Sunday, October 30.   http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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