James Logan’s new play “Red” about abstract painter Mark Rothko, which has just opened on Broadway, begins with an unobstructed view of Alfred Molina’s back. Molina as Rothko, staring at his own painting, begins to pontificate — and this, in essence, is the central image of the play: a self-absorbed artist/genius who turns away from the world as his newly hired assistant witnesses his rants and rages, fears and memories.
The play is full of wonderful, if highfalutin’, art criticism, literary discourse and philosophy. I was actually quite surprised that this sort of thing could fly on Broadway. Rothko’s assistant Ken (Eddie Redmayne), recently introduced to Nietzsche, also begins to pontificate, calling Rothko “Appolonian, Rabbinical,” as opposed to Jackson Pollock who was purely “Dionysian.” Of course, his simplistic boxing of artistic personalities into newly discovered archetypes ends up being squashed and demolished by his mentor.