Theater Review: In Red,’ art can be painful
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | June 20,2014
Photo by Taylor Crichton
Tim Daly, right, is painter Mark Rothko and Charles Socarides, Ken, in the Dorset Theatre Festival production of “Red.”
DORSET — “Red,” John Logan’s Tony Award-winning play, chronicles Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko’s inner struggle — but it also dramatizes the torment of every real artist.
Dorset Theatre Festival is opening its 2014 summer season with a taut, powerful and poignant production — starring Tim Daly and Charles Socarides — which runs through July 6 at the Dorset Playhouse. Wednesday’s preview performance took a little time to take off, but soon became a deeply moving and rewarding experience.
It is 1958 and Rothko has been awarded the contract to create a mural for the posh Four Seasons Restaurant in the new Seagram’s Building — at $35,000, the highest commission in America at the time. Rothko, already one of the world’s most successful painters, takes on an assistant to prepare his canvases and paints.
Ken, an aspiring young painter (actually a composite of various Rothko assistants), becomes the catalyst for this drama, which has the famed painter questioning his own very existence. In the process of working with Ken, the artist finally comes to grips with himself.
It’s a taught emotional roller-coaster ride, and the Dorset production, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, successfully plumbs its depths, proving entertaining as well.
Daly, better known for television and film than theater, took a little time to become Rothko at Wednesday’s preview, but when he did, it was a convincingly intense and passionate Rothko. He successfully conveyed the painter’s inner turmoil and artistic depth, as well as his incredible narcissism.
More importantly, it was the interaction with Socarides’ most natural Ken, who grows from groupie into himself, which proved most powerful. One of the most poignant moments — for both actors — happened when Ken related the death of his parents to Rothko.
“Red” enjoys Dorset’s usual high level production qualities, an authentic artist’s studio by John McDermott, creatively lit by Michael Gianniti with period costuming by Charles Schoonmaker. The Mozart in M.L. Dogg’s sound design beautifully contrasts the turmoil on stage.
The ensemble work Wednesday in Dorset’s 90-minute “Red” was intense and powerful, and ultimately a most rewarding theater experience.
Dorset Theatre Festival
Dorset Theatre Festival presents John Logan’s “Red” June 18-July 6 at the Dorset Playhouse, 104 Cheney Road in Dorset. Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, plus 3 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, June 25 and July 2. Tickets are $59-$25, $20 for students; call 802-867-2223, or go online to www.dorsettheatrefestival.org.