Monday, October 03, 2011

Intellectually Intense Drama

by John Logan

"Silence is so accurate."

"These pictures deserve compassion."

Rothko:  "Now tell me, what do you see?  
Ken:  "Red."

Yesterday I attended a production of John Logan's Tony Award-winning play Red at the Goodman Theatre.  Directed by Robert Falls and starring Edward Gero as Mark Rothko and Patrick Andrews as Ken, his apprentice/assistant.  This was a brilliant and scintillating intellectual tour de force for the actors as Logan drew upon a famous moment in the life of  Mark Rothko to explore the nature of the artist and creativity.  Alongside this exploration was the juxtaposition of the relationship between Rothko as mentor and Ken as apprentice.  Their relationship metamorphosized over the scenes representing the passage of two years in their lives.  From a nervous somewhat intimidated young man in the first scene Ken reaches a point when he demonstrates that he has learned from the master in the climactic scenes.  The sorcery demonstrated by Rothko consisted of a foundation of intellect with a patina of bravura bullying whose shell is finally pierced by both his apprentice and his own penchant for meditating upon the meaning of art and his life in art.  The dialog was intense with moments of relief when Rothko meditated on his art, but even in these moments the intensity built as the  short (100 minute) play built inexorably to its climax.  The climax was all the more powerful because it combined the impact of several levels of the story -- the artist and his art - his life in art, the artist and his patrons, and the artist and his apprentice.  Brilliantly acted, with engaging music -- staging that highlighted the art and culminated with a breathtaking use of lighting to end the play.  I cannot remember the last time I was moved both intellectually and emotionally by a drama as much as I was by Goodman's production of RED.


parrish lantern said...

This really does sound as if it puts you through an emotional wringer, with an interesting subject matter, the old story of the student surpassing the master, which seems to resonate through a lot of literature where ever it comes from, although the subject matter is different it kind of reminds me Yasunari Kawabata's Master of Go.

James said...

Thanks for your comment. In this drama the student does not "surpass" the Master but he matures over the two years and develops an ability to stand up to him. I will put the Kawabata book on my "to-read" list. I have enjoyed other of his works.