There's something magical happening on stage at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. Their production of John Logan's Red is one which you will not want to miss! The play, which won the Tony Award for best play in 2010, tells the story of painter Mark Rothko and his assistant, Ken. Over the course of two years, the two work together to create art, and to discuss the very nature of life, art, and creation.
The cast is small, just two actors, but those two men fill the theater with life under the wonderful direction of Vivienne Benesch. Stephen Caffrey, despite an unfortunate half-shaved head, is quite wonderful as the complicated painter trying to decide how his art fits into a commercial world of ever-changing opinions; Matt Garner is his ideal complement in Rothko's assistant Ken, who is attempting to become an artist as he deals with a painful past and tries to find his own artistic voice under Rothko's shadow. The two come together in a moment of theatrical brilliance as they prime a large canvas during what can only be adequately described as an artists' pas de deux. Even audience members who, like myself, do not know a great deal about Rothko's life, will feel as if Caffrey and Garner have given them an intimate peek into the life of one of the 20th century's most notable artists.
The creative elements of the show border on perfection. The lighting design by Charlie Morrison achieved a subtle brilliance that is rarely seen. There were many conventional lights on the stage (lamps, etc.), and the lighting was done in such a way that the theatrical lighting dissolved into the background, and it seemed like everything was lit by the conventional lights on stage. The colored lighting under the stage and in the back windows punctuates the play in a way that is smart but not overwhelming or tacky. I have come to expect nothing but the best in set design from the folks at PlayMakers Repertory, and Jan Chambers did not disappoint with the brilliant Red set. The exposed beams, the wooden floor, the shelves and shelves of old paint jars, and all of the miniscule details of set decoration came together to result in a space that felt truly authentic.
Red is a brilliant kick-off for Playmakers Repertory Company's 2012-2103 season – if it's any indication of what is to come this year, you might as well go ahead and buy season tickets right now. Red runs through October 7th. For tickets and more information, visit www.playmakersrep.org.