The Donmar Warehouse Production
(Mark Rothko Bio)
Starring Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne
By John Logan
Directed by Michael Grandage
252 West 45th Street
New York, NY
Set and Costume Design: Christopher Oram
Lighting Design: Neil Austin
Composer and Sound Design: Adam Cork
Donmar Executive Producer: James Bierman
Casting: Anne McNulty
Marketing Director: Eric Schnall
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Management: 101 Productions Ltd.
Production Stage Manager: Arthur Gaffin
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 28, 2010
It’s been six years since I favorably reviewed Alfred Molina as the humorous, humble, yet hard-line Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof. The Alfred Molina as Rothko, while introspective, intellectual, and intense, still has a story to tell. This story is not in a shetl, but in a studio, an expansive art studio in late 50’s downtown Manhattan, and Mark Rothko’s infamous Seagram Murals were in the process of creation. Joseph Seagram and Sons had commissioned Rothko to paint forty works for the new Four Seasons Restaurant, to be housed for elite dining within their Park Avenue, Mies Van der Rohe-Philip Johnson designed office building. But, their patrons’ appetites and social class conflicted with Rothko’s background, philosophy, and intellectual obsessions. Money and morals collided, within Rothko’s inner sensibilities, and those esoteric conflicts were played out onstage between Molina, as the overwrought Rothko, and Eddie Redmayne, as Ken, his new assistant. The level of power shifted dramatically, in John Logan’s new play, as the earthy, probing, driven Ken morphed from paint bucket steward to overseer of Rothko’s conscience. Like bull and matador, Ken waved his invisible red cape of nerve-assaulting questions, while Rothko psychologically penetrated Ken’s secret past.
Mr. Molina invokes Shakespeare and Nietzsche, before he’s outdone by the fast-on-his feet Ken, an aspiring artist with gutsy street sense. But, this production has more than ethereal, cultural argument; it also has action. When Rothko blasts opera on his very busy record player, the two forces join in one enormous explosion of motion and music, preparing a canvas for its destiny. Paint is flung, paint is spilled, and paint is smelled in this very earthy, electric production. Redmayne rushes about in silence, eager to please, but also confronts and confuses his master with sharp provocation. Molina hovers over his brushes and mixes magenta like a mad scientist, but also huddles in despair, a man on the edge of spiritual transformation. John Logan’s Red is exhausting for actors and audience alike, but worth every unsettling moment. Red, persuasively directed by Michael Grandage, should be seen twice; once to focus on the drama, and once to focus on the talent.
Christopher Oram’s set design draws you right into Rothko’s inner sanctum, and Neil Austin’s dim lighting works wonders. Adam Cork’s music and sound propel scenic momentum. Kudos to John Logan, Michael Grandage, Mr. Molina, and Mr. Redmayne. Kudos to Mark Rothko.
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