It’s mainly a couple of guys talking about art.
Red, the two-actor drama that opened Saturday at Stage West, takes us into the workshop of 20th-century minimalist artist Mark Rothko (Jim Covault), where is he breaking in a new assistant, Ken (Nate Davis).
The Rothko presented here is reclusive, egotistical, mercurial and perhaps the most pretentious human being who has ever lived. He constantly talks at, not to, Ken, pontificating about the meaning of art in the most lofty of terms while he prepares to sell a stack of paintings to a ritzy restaurant.
On the rare occasions when Ken is able to get a word in edgewise, he challenges the master a bit, but largely buys into Rothko’s view that his art is far too good for the disgusting, ignorant masses.
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And that’s about it for this production directed by Dana Schultes. The two actors do build a frame for a canvas and paint an undercoat on another one. Rothko does make one important decision that should not be given away here. But otherwise, it is largely one pompous conversation after another.
Things get a little more interesting toward the end of this 100-minute show when Ken drops some bombs about his personal life. But that particular tangent from deep left field (Rothko as a father figure to Ken) is not really developed.
There is nothing to fault in the acting or directing in this show, and it is played out on an outstanding set designed by Davis. But, to paraphrase a woman whose name is dropped in John Logan’s script, there is no there there.
This play might shed some illuminating light on Rothko and his work for other patrons. But nothing came into focus.