The Tony award winning production "Red" premiered at the Ula Love Doughty Carousel Theatre on Friday, and it certainly made a mark.
"Red," written by John Logan, the author of other plays such as "Never the Sinner," "Hauptmann" and screenwriter for such popular films as "Hugo", "Rango" and "Gladiator," has once again brought something brilliant to the table.
The part of Mark Rothko was played by Michael Elich. Elich has spent 19 seasons with the Shakespeare Festival and multiple other works of much prominence and definitely brought his knowledge and acting base with him to this very sensitive part. The part of Ken, Rothko's assistant, is played by Matt Leisy, an upcoming and very promising actor who has spent time in independent film readings and an assortment of plays around the country, and visually shows his eagerness for the part.
In "Red," Logan has put the focus on Rothko, a figure head in abstract expressionism, as well as his young and eager apprentice, Ken. The play follows Rothko as he attempts to paint his most important works to date for the Four Seasons restaurant, with the help from his assistant Ken, who is slowly pointing out that his art could be "expiring."
The main thing to look for when watching this play is the importance of the display of emotion, because a play of this depth, without being able to pull heartstrings or cause deep thought is pointless and a waste of time for the audience and anybody else who ever even thought to spend time near it.
The work itself is extraordinarily well written, hence the multiple awards, and was brought to life by the phenomenal performances of the actors. Elich's portrayal of Rothko was superb and he properly exuded the eccentricity and pompousness required to create a believable reflection of the painter. He also brought the character out through his urgency in action both vocal, physical, and a general presence on the stage. Elich's performance was something to be rivaled. Leisy also did a profound job.
He radiated a true love for the character he was playing, and in doing so created a very pure rendition of what Logan probably had in mind when he wrote Ken's character. He captured the naivety and eagerness required for the part and then went above and beyond by pulling emotion that the audience could feel wafting over the audience. It was stellar performance, to say the least.
However none of this would be possible without the work of the director and his crew. "Red" was directed by John Sipes, who has had experience directing the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and many other works. With his knowledge of drama he gave the script life, allowing the play to work to the extent it was suppose to, and with his staging unsaid actions often meant more to the audience than did the spoken words.
The only issue was that throughout the play there were moments of nervous or unsure laughter. People would suddenly laugh and then cut themselves short, either realizing that they were the only ones laughing or understanding that the line was not suppose to be intended as humorous. This happened once in almost every scene, but it took nothing away from the meaning of the play and was little to no distraction.
Despite this uncertainty among the audience, the Clarence Brown Theatre has once again brought a phenomenal theatre experience to the UT student body and the patrons that attend.