In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress!’ is one of my favorite quotes from “Moonstruck.” I’ve always loved wearing the color of red. It defies the little black dress. It’s confident. It’s sassy. It stands out.
Goodman Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of the Tony Award-winning RED. Playwright John Logan imagines the circumstances surrounding artist Mark Rothko’s life from 1958-1959. Rothko has been commissioned by the Four Seasons. They want to hang a series of his paintings in their restaurant. As Rothko agonizes over becoming hotel art, he procures an assistant. Ken is hired to mix paint, fetch take-out and listen to artistic rantings. He is also an aspiring artist. Ken brings order to the creative chaos hoping his master becomes his mentor. The self-absorbed Rothko is unwilling to play any role other than employer. Because of Rothko’s oppression, Ken does learn to express himself. RED is an artist appreciation class.
Playwright John Logan took a factual moment in artist Mark Rothko’s career and wrote a backstory. It’s the art of making art. Logan’s script captures the artistic conflict between being understood and being commercialized. On Director Robert Falls’ canvass, the portrait of an artist is clearly interpreted. To-be-or-not-to-be tormented Mark Rothko’s daily existence. Edward Gero (Rothko) pontificates with hard-core ego mania. Gero finds the snippets of true vulnerability to reveal a fear of black. ‘One day black will swallow the need.’ In a powerful moment of collaboration, Gero bellows ‘let’s prime the canvass.’ He and Patrick Andrews (Ken) work together to paint an oversize picture. Andrews is a work of art. He starts as a simple sketching and becomes a vibrant portrait. Andrews transforms from nervous assistant to challenging counterpart. An intensely passionate Andrews finds his depth in red.
Scenic designer Todd Rosenthal created a masterpiece of a loft studio. It’s an impressive oversized space. The huge walls have windows. There is a visible ceiling with dangling fluorescent lights. The entry way looks like a glassed in greenhouse. Canvasses and paint supplies cover every shelf and space. It’s a genius’ innovative mess! Spotlighting the workspace, Designer Keith Parham uses a variety of lighting techniques to showcase the art and emotion. Two specific moments are unforgettable. Flashing on the overhead lights illuminates the stage with a stark and harsh brightness. In the end scene, a painting is lit from within as Gero stares into it. It’s a bold finish for the artist’s essences. This RED is a vivid artist-in-the-studio depiction.
Only officially open for a week, RED has already extended its run. If you want to avoid seeing red, you should secure your RED tickets now before it goes black.
Always wanting to paint the town red, Ellen describes it with 'identity crisis resolved.'
Running Time: 100 minutes with no intermission
At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Written by John Logan
Directed by Robert Falls
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Production photograph courtesy of Liz Lauren.