New York Magazine’s Theater and Art critics talk about the moment in Red–the new play about Mark Rothko–when they both gave up on hating the play and decided to give in to it:
Jerry Saltz: OMG! I was squirming when Rothko ponderously asks Ken, “What do you see?” And when Molina is pacing and mumbling, “Rothko, Rembrandt. Rembrandt, Rothko,” I almost lost it. Except, Rothko really talked this way! Art critic Clement Greenberg, who loved Rothko’s work, called him “pompous” and said, “I hate to use the word hysterical, but … ” I guess Rothko’s zhlubby looks, his dark paintings, terrible depression, and suicide make one surprised that he wasn’t a moody slug. He was super-articulate, funny, and, according to Elaine de Kooning, “flirtatious” […] I calmed down once I decided the play’s real content is depicting the crushing loneliness of the studio and the fear, self-hate, delusion, and shame that go into making art you believe in.
Zacharek: I was turned around when Rothko and his assistant go at that massive blank canvas, Rothko starting at the upper-left corner and Ken at the lower right, covering it with paint as if their lives depended on it. They’re moving blindly, feverishly, but with fierce exactitude, their movements so magnificently orchestrated.
Saltz: That fabulous scene was accurate. They really did paint at the same time, slathering five-inch housepainter’s brushes drenched with rabbit-skin glue and pigment all over the canvas and themselves, with classical music blaring in the background. But I’m struck by your saying that without movement a play is dead. I’m often put off by the artificial movement of theater, which can seem at the service of theatrical conventions rather than expanding the conventions of theater.
What Do You See? (New York Magazine)