A studio becomes a battleground where Mark Rothko and his assistant not only spar verbally but paint a giant canvas “Red” in the Oklahoma premiere of the play of that title at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
The Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre offering was staged in the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre, using a set based on photos of Rothko's studio, including large paintings, a movable easel and a favorite green chair.
D. Lance Marsh as Rothko came across as a sometimes bullying and bombastic figure, using his naive young assistant as a verbal punching bag, sounding board and mirror of his many abrupt mood swings.
Pacing himself well, Marsh turned in a sustained, ultimately convincing performance, giving the leading abstract expressionist artist his due, and emerging figuratively bloody but unbowed, like a fighter going the distance.
Aaron Wertheim as the assistant, “Ken,” at first seemed overwhelmed by the great man's daunting presence, but eventually gave as good as he got, turning some of Rothko's own arguments against him.
Particularly powerful was a scene in which Wertheim as Ken noted that Rothko's boast that the abstract expressionists destroyed cubism is ironically echoed by the irreverence of the pop artists toward them.