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Seeing Red

P.J. Tighe and Paul Todaro in Red. (photo by Chris Cavanagh)

MusicalFare has taken its obsession with plays about artistic creation downtown. In the past, they’ve taken on Georges Seurat (Sunday in the Park with George); Ludwig van Beethoven (33 Variations); Clara Wieck Schumann (Talk to Me Now); and George Gershwin (American Rhapsody). Now the conceptual underpinnings of abstraction and fame get a workout in John Logan’s play, Red, about the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, opening this week at 710 Main.

The play is set in Rothko’s New York studio in 1958 as he is working on a group of paintings commissioned for Manhattan’s posh Four Seasons restaurant. Rothko supervises the work of his (fictional) assistant, Ken, and the two chat and argue. The topics range from artistic creation, to commercialism, to the Apollonian vs. the Dionysian. Yes, it is the sort of dialogue that allows audiences be self-congratulatory for being so very smart.

“What do you see?” asks Rothko in the play’s often quoted opening words. And so begins a journey into the world of Red.

I saw Alfred Molina as Rothko and Eddie Redmayne in the Broadway transfer of the original London production back in 2010. The show won a shelf full of Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Featured Actor for Redmayne. A great deal of the evening is undeniably engrossing.

Paul Todaro and P. J. Tighe will play the roles for MusicalFare. The roles are designed to give each plenty to run with. The production provides Buffalo with a chance to see this widely admired play.