By Alec Clayton
The angst, artistic sensibility and intelligence of the great abstract-expressionist painter Mark Rothko will be on display — raw nerve ends and all — when Olympia Little Theatre brings to the stage John Logan’s dramatic two-man show Red, directed by Jim Patrick and starring Christopher Valcho as Rothko and John Tuttle as his studio assistant Ken.
The artist has accepted the biggest commission of his career, a series of huge paintings for the New York restaurant The Four Seasons. In the play, which takes place in the artist’s studio, Rothko argues with Ken about art and life while preparing these commissioned paintings.
“As I worked on this play, something elegant emerged from John Logan’s choice to write about two characters,” Patrick says. “In a way, viewing art is a two-character experience: one person in communication with the art itself.” The play depicts the men’s evolving relationship in a working art studio over two years.
“What happens?” Patrick asks. “A lot. They talk, of course; it’s a play. They talk and argue about art and life and childhood. They talk and argue about paint and painters and painting. And they paint. Sometimes they paint with brushes, sometimes they paint with words. All of it is a painting. What I love about this production is that the audience is on three sides. It invites the audience into Rothko’s art studio. Rather than watch the play like you’re watching a painting inside a frame, the audience is watching it like you are in the room, like you are part of the painting yourself.”
Rothko completed 40 paintings, comprising three full series in dark red and brown. He later said his intention in painting those works, as quoted by John Fischer of Harpers Magazine, was to paint “something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room.”
Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia
7:25 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20-30