As you enter Actors Theatre of Charlottes production of Red you cant help but notice the red motif even before the show starts.
The set includes a large late-1950s New York City studio that includes shelves lined with buckets of red paint, red paint splatters across the walls and floor, and several large red canvases.
This studio can only be that of acclaimed artist Mark Rothko. This story, which won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play, takes the audience on a journey through the pinnacle of Rothkos artistic career to his later years, where he finds himself painting murals for a New York restaurant burdened by the sudden transition from paintings, such as those from Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso, to the temporal and disposable art of Warhol and comic books.
It's a transition that drives Rothko to such denial and depression that it results in his suicide in 1970.
He doesnt go through this journey alone, but instead is accompanied by a young assistant who shows him the true meaning of whats red or white - or how to keep the black from swallowing the red.
Actors Theatre made a bold choice in choosing this production. The passionate and dark story line coupled with the original Broadway productions strong reputation make it easy for the production to fall short of a knowledgeable audience members expectations.
Yet this production dodges that risk, with a powerful performance that will bring audiences to their feet.
The harsh scenic design adds to dark story, and subtle artistic incorporations help underscore the transition in Rothkos work over the course of two years.
The use of classical music is used to help illustrate the characters thoughts, without even using words. This play was written by John Logan, famous for his work on films such as "Hugo," "Sweeney Todd" and "The Aviator."
Logan bravely wrote a show that consisted of only two characters; a risky choice, yet that of two actors seem to be the perfect amount of stage presence throughout the show. Adding any more would take away from the depth of the story.
When only two actors are needed in a show, it makes the task of choosing the right actors crucial. But Actors Theatre managed to hit the casting nail on the head. This production showcases the talent of Rob Kahn (Mark Rothko) and Jeremy DeCarlos (Ken, Rothkos assistant).
Kahn manages to capture Rothkos pretentious and overbearing personality, while simultaneously showing the artists internal struggle of embracing the change in culture and the declining appreciation of his work.
DeCarlos gives a strong performance as Ken, with perfect delivery of sarcastic and dryly humorous remarks when needed, and even a sense of vulnerability in the more emotional scenes.
While both actors are great on their own, these actors play off of each other brilliantly, making their antagonistic relationship believable.
This is a powerful production that would be recommended for anyone over age 16 (language is a strong component in the show). But it is especially recommended for anyone looking for a show with a meaningful story.