Red comes to San Miguel

By Kate Rowland

Red, John Logan’s Tony Award-winning drama about the great abstract expressionist painter, Mark Rothko, and his assistant, Ken, will open August 6 at Teatro Santa Ana, playing Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 5pm, through August 17. Tickets are available at the Santa Ana box office, 50A Reloj, for this exciting Players Workshop production, directed by Kate Rowland,

Wed-Sat, Aug 6-9, 7:30 pm
Mon-Sat, Aug 11-16, 7:30pm
Sun, Aug 10 and 17, 5pm
Teatro Santa Ana
La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A
150 pesos, All Seats Reserved

The play’s first image is of Rothko (Michael Gottlieb), staring out into the theater, transforming the fourth wall into one that holds a canvas worth scrutinizing. “What do you see?” Rothko asks of his new assistant, Ken (Martin Grapengeter). What we see, above all, is an artist seeing, and it’s impossible not to feel thrilled by the privilege. It’s one thing to say that an artist regards his paintings as his children. But it’s another to be able to look at that artist looking at his paintings, as Gottlieb’s Rothko does, with a mix of fatherly anxiety and wonder. In this Player’s Workshop production, three talented San Miguel painters, Bea Aaronson, Juan Ezcurdia, and Kathleen Cammaratta, exquisitely present Rothko’s work in facsimile.

It is 1958 when the eager assistant, Ken, arrives at the painter’s New York City studio in the Bowery. Rothko is at work on a series of murals intended to adorn the Four Seasons Restaurant in the newly constructed Seagram Building on Park Avenue. In the span of a terse 90 minutes, the two converse, verbally spar and paint.

Rothko is fond of delivering muscular, at times bullying pronouncements. He belonged to a generation that aspired to “seriousness” — to “significance.” Ken is the voice of both a puritanical conscience and a new generation of artists that threaten Rothko’s rule. Ken is there to challenge his employer’s dismissal of the likes of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol (all of whom Rothko says lack depth and substance), and to plant doubts about the appropriateness of hanging contemplative paintings in a temple of consumption like the Four Seasons Restaurant. There are assorted, distinctly Oedipal clashes between the two men, played for all-out dramatic fierceness, and a gloriously frenzied, feral canvas-priming scene.

After seeing this play you will never view the color red in the same way again. Yet, Rothko tells Ken there is another hue that taunts him, one that perhaps prefigures his death: black. “There is only one thing I fear in life, my friend… One day the black will swallow the red.”

The 2010 Broadway production of Red received six Tony Awards. John Logan is an award-winning screenwriter for both television and film as well. His screen writing credits include Gladiator, The Aviator, Star Trek: Nemesis, the Tim Burton-directed musical, Sweeney Todd, Rango, and the James Bond film Skyfall, just to name a few.

Hurry to the Santa Ana to purchase your tickets. Players Workshop’s Red is sure to be a hit.

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