Questions Pondered in Philosophical ‘Red’
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 13:09
It is safe to assume that most people go the theater to laugh, hear some show tunes, or indulge in a full-circle story onstage for two hours or so. It’s entertainment by people, for people, essentially.
That is just fine, and it is a wonderful thing to live in a community like Fargo-Moorhead that is so immersed in the arts. While the pure entertainment factor is the root of all reasons for attending a play or musical, one area theater is giving its audiences a little more to think about this time around.
Theatre B’s run of “Red” has a solid entertainment value about it, but it goes deeper than a few funny lines and colorful characters. “Red” ponders questions of philosophy and art out loud, intriguing not only its characters, but its audiences as well.
Sure, anyone can attend the show and only focus on the interactions between the characters, expressionist Mark Rothko (Hardy Koenig) and his assistant Ken (Blaine Edwards). Well, maybe not anyone. Leave the kids at home with this one. But anyway, digressing, Rothko and Ken strike like flint and steel from the start. Friction between the two runs throughout the show, as do their ponderings of the deeper issues of art and greater meaning.
Rothko, commissioned by the Four Seasons to paint a number of murals, takes on Ken to assist him in his studio. However, after a little while to marinate in each other’s presence, the two begin to question each other’s actions; for example, why is Rothko so furious with the emergent success of Andy Warhol when he says that it is necessary to “banish the father” like he and his contemporaries did to their cubist forebears?
Why does he take up the restaurant commission when he abhors art made for a commercial purpose, art made to “go with something?” Rothko’s retort that the restaurant is really a temple to house his abstracts is hardly an argument for what Ken calls “selling out.”
Rothko’s hypocrisy and inflated ego are frequently questioned and poked by his young assistant, who strives to learn from Rothko what they did not teach him at art school. He philosophizes Nietzsche, debates the meanings of the color red, and is not afraid to question his arrogant employer, calling Rothko out when double standards seem present.
It is this questioning by Ken that taps the audience on their heads, evoking them to think for themselves about the meaning behind Rothko’s art and actions.
By the end, the two are not friends, but have grown just the teensiest bit past their employer-employee relationship established by Rothko early on. They find a mutual respect, the aging artist and the eager apprentice, and “Red” explores how they come to an understanding through the riveting thoughts they pose to each other.
“Red” continues its run every Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. until Oct. 12 with a matinee on Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. and an ASL performance on Sept. 28 at Theatre B 716 Main Avenue. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for Sunday matinee seniors, $10 for students and $5 for Thursday students. Tickets are available at the box office and at 701-729-8880.