By Emma Krasov
To penetrate an artist’s mind and try to comprehend his creative process is a challenging task, and the award-winning playwright John Logan shifts his focus to exploring the fictional father-son relationship between the great abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko and his assistant “Ken” at the Berkeley Rep new production of Red.
The play for two actors is practically a non-stop dialog that holds all the features of a successful drama – tension, conflict, revelation, shock, and wit.
Masterfully directed by Les Waters, and brilliantly performed by David Chandler (Mark Rothko) and John Brummer (Ken) Red keeps its audiences engaged, and sometimes breathless.
An energetic action scene where both actors paint a “Rothko” to record-player music – an evocation of Rothko’s Seagram murals’ creation in record time – is nothing short of a masterpiece.
While the play seems to capture the essence of the artist’s dogged devotion to his art, his insistent intellectualization of life’s senseless tragedy, and uncompromising search for purity of expression, the interpretation of his suicide hinges in-between denial of the cold hard historical fact and an attempt at a “what if” game.
Red runs on Thrust Stage through April 29 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley, California. Call for tickets 510-647-2900 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org
Image: In the Tony Award-winning play Red at Berkeley Rep, renowned painter Mark Rothko (David Chandler) engages in a battle of wits with his assistant (John Brummer). Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com