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Review: ‘RED’ brings life back into old Advocate newsroom

 

 

For four years now, Danville’s Scarlet Cup Theater has put on unique performances in unique places that were never designed to be a stage.

Bringing theater and life to empty or unused spaces is an intriguing, romantic concept. But the concept alone would not have carried Scarlet Cup far if it did not also bring in superb actors, who put on performances that should be sold out wherever they happen to be performing.

Scarlet Cup has done just that again with its newest play, “RED,” which is showing through March 8 in the old Advocate-Messenger newsroom — about a 15-second walk from my desk where I write these words.

I watched the final dress rehearsal for “RED” Wednesday night, sitting maybe 10 feet from where my desk was when I worked as a beat reporter for The Advocate more than a decade ago.

We vacated the old newsroom more than three years ago; and since that time, it has sat in mostly darkness, the old desks from our heyday gathered together and stood on end, looking like the Stonehenge from a previous reporting age.

Into this huge, dead space has now come the huge personality of mid-20th-century abstract artist Mark Rothko.

“RED’s” audience is asked to envision themselves in an old New York City gymnasium with little to no natural light available — a studio used by Rothko, a real artist, in the late 1950s. The high ceilings, plain walls and sparse windows of the space make it easy to imagine.

Rothko, portrayed by Centre theater professor Patrick Kagan-Moore, storms about his studio during the play, full of arrogance and narcissism, but also wisdom and insight. He pours all of his challenging perspectives out on his assistant, portrayed by Kolton Winfield, managing director of the Central Kentucky Community Theatre in Springfield.

Winfield plays a mild-mannered, aspiring artist without enough experience to know exactly why or what he should paint. He is first intimidated by Rothko’s aggressive attitude; then becomes accustomed to it; and finally builds enough confidence in his own artistic perspectives to challenge him face-to-face.

The play is about what students and teachers can learn from each other. It’s also about how rejecting some of what you’re being taught is how you become your own person, how you even might transform into the teacher.

“RED” also asks questions about what art is and whether it matters. The answers it finds are, appropriately, open to interpretation by the viewer.

“RED” no doubt fictionalizes, embellishes, simplifies and romanticizes who Rothko was and how art changed as the Pop Art movement arrived on the scene. It’s not a retelling of historical facts, but it’s not supposed to be. It is a piece of art itself, intended to make the viewer feel emotions and engage in self-examination. And it accomplishes that goal beautifully.

 

IF YOU GO

“RED” is showing Thursday-Sunday through March 8 at The Advocate-Messenger, 330 S. Fourth St., Danville. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 each and can be ordered by visiting danvillearts.org or calling (859) 319-1204.