STORY: Ken, a young art student from Iowa, receives a rare opportunity to observe a master in action when he is hired by famed abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko in 1958 to assist on a series of murals commissioned by the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. Working alongside Rothko in the latter’s Bowery studio, Ken gradually evolves from timid and awestruck student into a professional whose own developing artistic tastes and opinions challenge his autocratic employer.
Rothko was a Russian Jewish immigrant who despised the ruling elite while embracing the art of Michelangelo and the ancient Greeks. Eventually, he is forced to examine his motives for accepting the commission and its rich commercial rewards in contrast to his own vocal and clearcut philosophy about his art.
HIGHLIGHTS: Written by John Logan, this one-act, 90- minute drama garnered six Tony Awards in 2010, including Best Play and Best Director.
Rep artistic director Steven Woolf has set a formidable bar for other regional performances with a taut, mesmerizing and provocative presentation that transforms the audience into a riveted eavesdropper in Rothko’s spacious studio. Under Woolf’s incisive direction, Brian Dykstra inhabits Rothko’s domineering and tortured persona as completely as Matthew Carlson informs the troubled, mysterious Ken. Logan’s effort is a magnificent marriage between the real and the imagined as he theorizes what may have driven Rothko to repudiate what at that time was the largest art commission in the world.
OTHER INFO: In addition to bearing a strong resemblance to the 20th century painter, Dykstra delivers a captivating performance that is stunning in its execution. He combines brilliance, arrogance, curiosity and a fiercely veiled loneliness in his portrayal of an artistic giant. Yet, his performance is equaled by Carlson’s vivid interpretation of the young protégé whose own tragic background leads to a powerful confrontation that is all the more remarkable for what its result reveals about both men.
Red is a brooding and fascinating exploration of one artist’s troubled psyche and another’s developing voice within his master’s confines, an evocative effort that resonates long after the lights dim.
RATING: A 5 ON A SCALE OF 1-TO-5.
REPERTORY THEATRE OF ST. LOUIS
VENUE: BROWNING MAINSTAGE, LORETTO-HILTON CENTER, 130 EDGAR ROAD
DATES: THROUGH OCT. 2
TICKETS: FROM $19; CONTACT 968-4925 OR REPSTL.ORG