Red reveals internal struggle of renowned artist

Belfry Theatre hosts award-winning play on life of Mark Rothko

Jameson Parker and Oliver Becker paint the stage in Red by John Logan

From the moment the audience enters the Belfry Theatre, the atmosphere is both chaotic and ominous.

Huge canvasses swallow the stage walls, familiar deep red and black rectangles painted with remarkable similarity – at least to the untrained eye – the work of abstract expressionist Mark Rothko.

Drops of paint litter the stage floor leading toward a plywood work table covered in brushes, stained rags and plastic buckets, giving the unmistakable, oil-soaked feel of an artist’s studio.

Set designer Peter Hartwell’s attention to detail is indicative of the quality of Red, the Belfry’s first offering of the fall season on the life of Rothko from playwright John Logan.

With huge screenplays like Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo under his belt, it’s clear Logan has a gift for storytelling. He took home the 2010 Tony Award for best play for Red.

The opening scene reveals Rothko, played by the impressive Oliver Becker, lost in thought as he stares deeply into an imaginary half-finished creation.

His musings are cut short by the arrival of his new and overtly earnest assistant, Ken (played by Jameson Parker).

The entire play takes place in Rothko’s New York studio in 1958-59, at the height of the artist’s fame, when he was creating a series of paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan’s Seagram Building.

In a scene that illustrates director Michael Shamata’s enthusiasm for authentic detail, Ken methodically staples a three-metre canvas to a wooden frame before he and Rothko smother it in crimson paint from top to bottom.

Sound designer and renowned local composer Tobin Stokes brings to life Rothko’s dependence on music to inspire the creative process.

The fascination comes from watching Rothko’s attempts to hold onto his revolutionary beliefs while embracing the reality of commercialism and fame.

The dialogue is rich, the actors engaging and not a moment is provided to allow the mind to wander from this satisfying performance.

Red runs until Oct. 14 at the Belfry Theatre and tickets range from $25 to $40. For more information, call 250-385-6815 or visit belfry.bc.ca/red.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘We’re running out of options’: Victoria looks to other municipalities to help shelter homeless

Victoria Curling Club, Crystal Pool ruled out as options for the 250 people remaining outside

VIDEO: Man breaks up Saanich road rage fight

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road

Mental Health: A look at a fractured system

In this special series, Black Press Media reporters share stories from across Greater Victoria

Saanich Peninsula Hospital to host new COVID-19 testing facilities

It is not clear yet when they will go into action

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

Couple celebrates 61st anniversary through Vancouver Island seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ entertains home-bound kids in Cowichan Bay

Alora Killam, 16, played the part in musical two years ago

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Most Read