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.

Just Posted

Greater Victoria teachers experienced more than 30 incidents of violence from students in one month

Shuttered behavioural programs, lack of resources creates challenges for local schools

Canadian alcohol policy gets failing grade from UVic researchers

Canadian provinces and territories collectively achieved less than half of their potential to reduce alcohol related harm

Esquimalt High robotics team heads to international competition

The Esquimalt Atom Smashers will participate in the FIRST Robotics Canada competition

Island playoffs underway at Oak Bay High

Home team vies for fifth straight Island title

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Galchenyuk scores in OT as Coyotes edge Canucks 3-2

Vancouver manages single point as NHL playoff chase continues

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

Government still reviewing Federal Court’s decision on PRV – Wilkinson

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

Most Read