Review by Greg Haymes
“What do you see?”
It’s not only the opening line of John Logan’s Tony Award-winning play, “Red,” currently onstage at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany. It’s also the play’s battle cry.
And just as there’s a huge difference between hearing music and listening to it, there’s also a monumental difference between looking at a painting and actually seeing it.
Logan distills the philosophy of the creative act into a broiling, one-act play that examines the iconic abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko as he ponders the gulf between art and commerce, his purpose in life and ultimately his own mortality. “Red” is a witty, whip-smart intellectual wrestling match about what art – and life – should mean, not just to an artist, but to us all.
Rothko – impeccably played with the wiles and roar of an old lion by veteran Kevin McGuire (last seen at Cap Rep in 2011 as the lead in “Man of La Mancha)” – faces his ultimate artistic challenge, having been commissioned to create a series of paintings to adorn the walls of the tony Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan. He’s hired on an assistant – played with the perfect balance of youthful energy and subtle reserve by David Kenner – to aid him in his studio. “I am not your teacher,” Rothko bellows, but during the three years covered in the play (1959-1961), the artist indeed instills confidence and the hunger for knowledge in his aide.