If you haven’t been to the Alley Theatre in a while, you definitely want to get in while you can still catch Red, their latest production based on abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Set in the late-1950s, Red depicts Rothko just as he’d gotten a commission to paint the Seagram Murals for the newly-built Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan.
While Rothko (portrayed by Scott Wentworth) starts off the play as an extremely confident (and somewhat arrogant) master painter, the two years he spends with his naive and eager assistant Ken (Jay Sullivan) transform him to an unsure and broken individual. As Ken gradually finds the strength to challenge his mentor's theories and beliefs, Rothko starts to re-examine his role as an artist as the story unravels.
This is a production fit for art-enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. I didn't know much about Rothko going in, aside from having visited the Menil and Rothko Chapel a number of times. The great thing about Red is not only are you drawn into the raw human emotion of the story, but you leave wanting to know more. That's why I spent last night reading as much as I could find about Rothko, and continue to do so today. Here are a few things I found out:
-Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in what is now present day Daugavpils, Latvia. At 10 years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States.
-The Rothko Chapel, located 3900 Yupon Street here in Houston, was created to be a place of contemplation, where seekers of Rothko’s artwork could journey. It took six years for Rothko to complete the Chapel, and it was to be his last artistic statement to the world. Read more about the creation of the Chapel on the Alley Theatre’s website, or by visiting it yourself. It's free - and beautiful!
-Rothko had two children, Kate and Christopher. Overheard at the Alley Theatre was that after he was brought in to examine them, Christopher Rothko gave the green light on the replica paintings used for the production.
-Red was written by John Logan, and has received six Tony awards, including Best Play.
Red runs through March 25 on the Hubbard Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue. For ticket prices and more information, visit alleytheatre.org.