BWW Review: RED at Fulton Theatre
Groucho Marx once quipped. "I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member". In other words, he felt that exclusivity was necessary for prestige. This idea is one of the main themes of the play, Red which opened at Fulton's Tell Studio Theater on May 10th. The show takes place in the 1950's studio of renowned modern artist, Mark Rothko (Bill Van Horn). Rothko is working on a series of commissioned murals and hires aspiring, young artist, Ken (Logan James Hall) as his assistant.
Rothko is gruff, self-centered and pretentious. He tells Ken right away that he is not his father, his rabbi, his teacher, or his psychologist, but only his employer. Rothko thinks of himself as a cultured and refined man of the world, and has great disdain for those, like Ken, whom do not share his perceived level of talent or passion.
Rothko sneers at his contemporaries like Picasso and Pollack, whom he considers sell-outs. He also has no respect for Warhol and Liechtenstein, considered artists for the masses. He values art that is sophisticated and refined. He is therefore frustrated and insulted every time he is challenged by his assistant's pragmatic point of view.
Van Horn and Hall have great rapport together. There is a level of trust and mutual respect as fellow actors. They continuously challenge each other verbally and physically throughout the show.
In fact, ushers handed out ponchos to front row audience members to protect them from a possible fleck or two of (washable) paint. Although the ponchos proved unnecessary for the paint, I imagine they served as welcomed protection from the actors' spittle, sweat, and wine-slurping-all tangible hallmarks of their intense performances.
Red is a great exploration of the purpose of art. Is it supposed to be something pretty to look at above your fireplace, or is it designed to be some sort of poignant commentary of the complexities of mankind? Is it desirable, or even possible, to be both? From a theatrical standpoint, at least, the show proves that a good play can be both thoroughly entertaining, and intellectually stimulating.
Red runs through May 27. Tickets and more info can be found at the theater website.