“Stop the heart and think… How fine are we?”
By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán
San Diego Repertory Theatre is staging its final production of its thirty-eighth season with RED by John Logan. It is a wonderful and –colorful- end to an eclectic and very well rounded season.
RED is a play with two actors and no intermission. John Vickery plays Mark Rothko, short for Marcus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz, an American painter of Russian Jewish descent. Jason Maddy is Ken, Rothko’s young assistant, aspiring painter and apprentice. San Diego Free Press had the opportunity to chat with the actors about their roles in RED.
The story is set in 1958 where Rothko faces a tough commission: create a work of art for the Four Seasons Restaurant. “My appreciation for him [Rothko] has really grown. I knew of him, but not all that much of his work” explained John Vickery. “He makes a very good point in the play that you have to spend time with the pictures before they start to work on you” added the LA based actor. Over the course of the play the audience will witness the artist’s perspective on those who responded to his work with comments like “oh my 3 year old can do that” when Abstract or Expressionist paintings come into the mix.
The play also examines how art dealers changed ‘the game’ for artists and took advantage of that bridge that came along with Pop Art. “I turned into a noun” Rothko remarks to his assistant. He is also aware of a certain decadence that came with the new artistic currents. “This is disposable…it is all about business, not art. Buying taste and buying class.” Ken complains to his potential mentor that he knows nothing about Rothko’s life even after two years of working for him. Maddy describes his character as “a young artist with a tragic background in his life who is looking for his voice and where he feels comfortable.”
The rhythm of the play is so intense that the absence of intermission is hardly noticeable, let alone missed. “We are never offstage and when we are, we are changing clothes.” joked Vickery. “It has been a big challenge but that is why I took it. I will take things that scare me to death and I am fairly happy with the way that it is going. I am really enjoying working with this young talent” he concluded.
Jason Maddy who is also a teaching artist is happy to be focusing on the things he cares about like his classes and these types of roles. “The play is written by a very literate man. There is a lot of intense language with philosophical ideas bouncing around. It is very human. The subject manner is about much more than an abstract expressionist and his apprentice. Anyone can relate to it.”
RED is directed by Michael Arabian and will be playing at the Lyceum Stage until Sunday April 27.
San Diego Repertory Theatre
79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101-6144
A number of surround events are scheduled in conjunction with the play.
Tickets available for purchase online at www.sdrep.org. Four hours free parking in the Horton Plaza Garage with validation at the theatre. Official hashtag is #RedSDRep
Alejandra Enciso Guzmán is an arts consultant and reporter in both Tijuana and San Diego. @Riselah / @Riselaheng