TR Robertson — Oceanside, CA …As you walk into the lobby of the Oceanside Theatre at The Brooks you are over whelmed by the beauty of the art work on the walls and above all, the colors. The Theatre has joined with the Oceanside Museum of Art Artist Alliance to “paint” the theatre with a variety of paintings to accompany the production of “Red”. The dominate color, in a majority of the paintings, is red and the artistic styles are a range of expressions. If you know nothing about the play, “Red”, you will soon find out that this color and the different artistic styles will dominate the message and tension theatre goers will soon see on stage.
Photos by Ken Jacques
“Red”, written by John Logan, opened in London in 2009 and on Broadway in 2010. The play was the 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Play and six other categories, a Drama Desk Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and Eddie Redmayne, who played Ken, won a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. Oceanside Theatre’s production is directed by Kevin Hafso-Koppman, who has worked in a variety of theatres in San Diego County for the last ten years. He has brought together two perfectly cast actors who will keep the audience and the tension in the theatre on edge for the 90 minute duration of the play.
The play centers on Rothko who has been paid a heaty commission to paint a series of abstract paintings for a well-to-do restaurant, the Four Seasons, in New York. The play takes place in the late 1950’s. Rothko has hired an assistant whose main duties are to mix paint, prepare the canvases, get him coffee and put up with his rantings and ravings about art and artists, philosophy, religion, society-in-general and anything else that happens to cross the artists mind. Ken takes it at first, becoming Rothko’s punching bag, until he has finally had enough of Rothko’s behavior. Rothko feels his work will turn the restaurant into “a temple” where the people at the restaurant will not only dine but also discuss the meaning of his work. He will find that this is not to be. Instead, Rothko will be caught in a struggle “to be significant”.
Playing the pompous, over bearing, loud, arrogant expressionist painter, Mark Rothko, is Robert May. May is a veteran actor and an award winning director as well as the Founding Artistic Director of Scripps Ranch Theatre’s “Out on a Limb – New Plays from America’s Finest City”. You will truly believe May is Mark Rothko – pompous, over-bearing, etc. etc., expressionist painter. The tension and stress he brings to the stage and to the life of the young assistant, Ken, makes you cringe, at times. Playing the assistant, Ken, is Luke Monday. Monday is making his Oceanside Theatre debut and is an accomplished actor having performed in numerous productions in San Diego County as well. He is masterful in presenting Ken as the timid, introverted struggling artist, getting his first opportunity to work with an accomplished artist. Ken will slowly, over the years, begins to develop a backbone and his own “artistic belief system”. You root for Ken, you want him to stand up to the belligerent Rothko. Monday paints a perfect picture of Ken. The discussions they have are fast paced, quick and cover a wide range of issues, so many it becomes mind numbing.
A well designed artist studio is surrounded by two large canvases representing the paintings Rothko is working on with a large canvas in the background. Set construction was handled by Bryon Andersen, Zachary Elliott and Carol Naegele. Lighting and Sound was by Ted Leib, costumes by Dawn Fuller-Korinek, and Stage Manager Crystal Burden.
This is a thought provoking play. It becomes more than a “Pop Art vs Abstract Expressionist Art” issue. The core, to Rothko, revolves around his belief that “black will swallow the red”. He wants, so hard, for his work to stand for something, for him to be significant. He can’t stand that painters he knew, like Pollock, or studied, like Picasso and Matisse, established themselves with a style he is still searching for and he finds degrading them can elevate his work. His most poignant statement comes at the end, when Rothko begins to go through his own revelations, when he tells Ken, “Art is a lonely thing, your world is out there. Make something new”.
This is an intense play. A play that will stir you and make you think about, artists, their purpose and the purpose of art. There is some explicit language in the play. ”Red” will run through May 20th at Oceanside Theatre Company, The Brooks Theatre, 217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside, California. Tickets can be purchased at www.oceansidetheatre.org or call 760-433-89