RED – A review

If you are in Victoria, Seattle or Vancouver and you are at all interested in theatre or Mark Rothko get yourself to the Vancouver Playhouse to see its production of RED before it ends February 4th.

My wife and I saw the play Friday January 20th, and the performance was outstanding. The two man show received an enthusiastic standing ovation from a not quite full crowd.

RED is writhing with dark humour, philosophy and poignant commentary on being human, art, and the perils of classification. I am not an art historian or well read about Rothko yet the general arc of the story was known to me. Even so, the playwright has managed to keep the play unpredictable and full of drama and suspense. The intermission free RED brushes past you at a perfect tempo, giving you enough time to reflect but not enough time to get restless.

For a play of this sort the set has incredible production values. Large canvases are used as props and curtains between acts.The use of light and the shadows cast by the actors are used to parallel the darkness in Rothko’s famous works both literally and symbolically. Rothko constantly smokes and drinks Johnny Walker, sometimes even offering a drink to his assistant. A record player is an important inanimate member of the cast that builds the atmosphere and sets the serious tone. The play creates an immense tension and tables some great philosophy with out being pretentious, obvious or boring.

Even if you have to travel to Vancouver go see RED. My wife and I just missed seeing it in NYC during our honeymoon two Septembers ago and I must say it was worth the wait. Don’t miss it, buy your tickets and make your plans today.

(The featured photo below is a no flash photo I took of a Rothko at the Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the MOMA in September 2010)

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