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“Red” crackles with life at the Fulton Theatre

Bill Van Horn and Logan James Hall delivering powerful performances in "Red" (Photo courtesy of Fulton Theatre).

Josh Rittberg 

Arts and Culture Editor

The Fulton Theatre’s production of John Logan’s “Red” is an intelligent character study on the famed artist, Mark Rothko. This one act play follows Rothko over two years as he works with his assistant Ken on a series of murals. These murals are going to be hung in an upscale New York restaurant. The creation of the murals sparks numerous artistic debates between Rothko and the young assistant that astound in their relevance.

Bill Van Horn commands the stage with a piercing intensity as Rothko. The painter in Logan’s play is an ego filled artist who is entirely focused and committed to the integrity of his art. Yet at moments, Horn’s Rothko shows great tenderness towards Hall’s character that adds to the man’s complexity. While Horn could have been more forceful in some of Rothko’s more stirring sequences, the actor crafts a fascinating character that is greatly captivating.

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Logan James Hall stuns as Rothko’s young but driven assistant Ken. Ken begins the story very much as Rothko’s naïve student. As the play goes on, the audience gets to see this young man mature and blossom into Rothko’s true partner and companion. While the character of Ken may seem initially to only be a plot device, Horn brings a welcome interest and fire to his scenes  that simply compel. Ken is very much the heart of this piece and Horn does this character remarkable justice.

Trey Compton brings handsome direction to this intriguing play. The performances he gets out of the two actors is simply remarkable. Compton blocks the actors well, and creates strong stage pictures that are intriguing yet raw. The simple yet immersive art studio set design by William James Mohney has the audience members seated on both sides of the performing space. Mohney’s setting particularly stands out in the sequences where Horn and Hall paint live on stage. An authenticity is exhibited in these scenes that carry throughout the entire production. The lighting by Josh Schlader while strong throughout simply soar in the more dramatic scenes with vibrant reds. These lights mirror the paintings effortlessly and give a handsome look to the show. The costumes by Anthony Lascoskie Jr. also add to the production’s realism.

“Red” closes The Fulton’s Ellen Arnold Groff Studio Series on an unforgettable high. It is as thought provoking as it is entertaining. Although the play is about painters, the piece’s discussions on the relevance of art seems to also be a great commentary on theatre. Much like theatre, art lives and dies from those who view and interpret it. While not the most plot driven play, “Red” like the best works of drama speaks volumes in its subtleties. This is a piece that asks its audience to lean in and absorb every intricacy in Logan’s powerful words. The best paintings offer endless rewards to those who truly listen and reflect, as in the case with The Fulton’s gorgeous production of “Red”.