STUDENT BLOGS: Theatre in London: Sites, Sounds, and Situations
I Saw Doc Oc!
by Luke Robinson
Today, I saw Red, a new play by John Logan. It is currently playing at the Donmar Warehouse and stars Alfred Molina, known for recent rolls as Tevye in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof and Doctor Octopus in the film Spider Man 2.
Red's show pamphlet summarizes the story:
"Under the watchful gaze of his young assistant and the threatening presence of a new generation of artists, Mark Rothko takes on his greatest challenge yet: to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting. A moving and compelling account of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century whose struggle to accept his growing riches and praise became his ultimate undoing."
It was a great experience witnessing the birth of a new play on a professional stage, although I do feel a tad cheated now. It will surely make for quite a comparison if I ever see the play at another venue. I can only hope that seeing the show elsewhere will not be a letdown, given the bias of seeing the original production.
The character Rothko states that he fears black, fears that it will swallow up the red, which he loves so much. Such definition between the two makes the red glow for him. At moments in the show, when focus is put on the artwork on which he is working, technical elements kick in and reveal to the audience Rothko's meaning. Deep, euphoric bass tones pulse throughout the space as light illuminates the red of the art and reveals an almost overwhelming tragic glow as the red emerges from the black.
The plays writing mirrors the art's jagged definition with strong and complex intellect. Rothko is constantly belittling his assistant with talks of Nietzsche, Pollock, and Cubism -- the list goes on. Rothko tells his assistant that he is not civilized unless he is educated and aware of what he speaks of. In this regard, Rothko also criticizes viewers of his art who cannot seem to appreciate it for what he intends.
Perhaps the best comparison is made directly with the audience. Rothko is hired to paint several pieces to go into a brand new Four Seasons Hotel restaurant. Rothko worries that his art will be criticized and not appreciated. He feels better about the situation since he is painting several of them together, all to live with each other — to keep one another company.
After visiting the expensive restaurant filled with very rich people, Rothko refuses to allow his art stay within the presence of such cruel eyes. This is a great clash on class and status. Being a poor painter, he dreamed of making it big, but once his eyes became open to the cruel and judging eyes of the upper class, Rothko realized that his paintings just didn't belong with them.
I highly recommend that everyone see this show.