Sunday, June 16, 2019

Red—Crave Theatre—SE Portland

                                                     A Lack of “Fineness”

    This stunning production is written by John Logan and directed by Sarah Andrews.  It is playing at the Shaking-the-Tree space, 823 SE Grant St., through June 30th.  For more information, go to their site at

    Artists of all kinds are, indeed, a strange breed and do have their own language, which only another artist can fully understand.  They are moody; deep, in a shallow way (or vice-versa); talkative to those who can translate their babblings; have a love-hate relationship with others (and themselves); and a legend in their own minds.  Or, as Zorba the Greek might put it, “Everybody needs a little madness in their time.”  What artists cannot stand is mediocrity or, as the author puts it, a certain “fineness” in the world.

    Mark Rothko (Maia McCarthy) is a tortured soul.  She seeks to explain the unexplainable, to define the undefinable, to walk barefoot on hot coals and know that she will be scorched but survive and, perhaps, be transformed because of the experience.  She is obsessed with the color Red, the sign of Life but also tragedy.  She fears the color black, a sign of nothingness, perhaps, death.  But, most important of all, she must Paint and then poses the question to an invisible audience (and herself), “What do you see?” and then, “What do you feel?”  A sensory journey through a maze of conclusions, contrasts and contradictions.

    She hires an assistant, Ken (Kylie Jenifer Rose), a novice, a wannabe artist herself, to help her in the studio, a sort of Man-Friday, with benefits.  Through the two years they will spend together, they will fuss and fume, bellyache and banter on the rocky road to creating Art.  And, as one’s guide in these ventures, is their Muse, who will be with them through thick and thin, till death do they part.  Art is not something You seek out, but will seek you out if it finds you worthy.  It is also an all-consuming, cruel mistress, as it rules your life.

    The play is rich with dialogue about the nature of Art and Life itself, and so must be seen and heard to be appreciated.  And, if you think that’s worthy your attention, as the saying goes, “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”  The dance/interpretive movement pieces (choreographer, Rachael Singer) are astounding, and Rose is sensational as an interpreter of those sometimes dreamy, sometimes savage, undulations!  The music choices, ranging from classical, to pop to jazz, compliment the dances and production.  And all the designers of the set area really have created a work of art in their own right.

    Andrews has a masterpiece on her hands in this production and it should not be missed!  The movements in a semi-circular space are beautiful to behold.  And her choice of actors for the roles is first-rate.  McCarthy as Mark is extraordinary!    She embodies the character, giving us the impression that she is thinking on her feet, as she forges forward (or backward), full-speed to an artistic fulfillment of some sort, a revelation transcending this corporal universe.  And Rose is equally as riveting, as the assistant, matching her mentor thought for thought.  She’s especially powerful in her dance moments.  Both actors mesmerizing!

    A side note, Haley Ward, Martha Harris (both notable artists in their own right) and myself, were chatting afterwards and all came up with the idea, what if Ken doesn’t really exist?  Is it possible that Mark is simply battling with his own conflicting ideas, as that would not be unusual in the creative process?  Anyway, just a thought….

    I highly recommend this production. It should not be missed!  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this well-earned review! We loved the show, as well.