Play “Red” and Some Dreadful Posters

John Logan’s “Red” is currently on stage at Seoul Arts Center, with Shin-il Kang and Ji-sang Han. Now that I’ve seen it, the Rothko rooms in Tate Modern are on my bucket list.

ROTHKO: Everything becomes everything else and it’s all nice and pretty and likeable. Everything is fun in the sun! Where’s the discernment? Where’s the arbitration that separates what I like from what I respect, what I deem worthy, what has… listen to me now… significance.

By Logan’s two-person play, Rothko comes alive and surrounds you – although the lines felt at moments, bit too self-explanatory, especially the part with Nietzsche. But then of course, it grapples with such a variety of themes that I suppose it would have been inevitable.

ROTHKO: … it’s all so goddamn funny, it’s our constitutional right to be amused all the time, isn’t it? We’re a smirking nation, living under the tyranny of `fine’. …

KEN: You know, not everything has to be so goddamn IMPORTANT all the time! Not every painting has to rip your guts out and expose your soul! Not everyone wants art that actually HURTS! Sometimes you just want a fucking still life or landscape or soup can or comic book! Which you might learn if you ever actually left your goddamn hermetically-sealed submarine here with all the windows closed and no natural light – BECAUSE NATURAL LIGHT ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!

So if dinosaurs are succeeded by mammals, who will kill and banish the mammals in turn? The play feels, as a whole, like witnessing a birth – visceral, with blood splattering everywhere.

Some musings about awful designers here – the left is a poster of “Red” at Broadway, and the right is the Korean production in 2011 (but exactly the same in 2014 anyway).


Not only does the title look like “Play Red”, but do you really need the actors’ faces like… God, it is just bloody awful, with central visual images completely abandoned and the pulsations tucked away in a corner. Personally, my favorites from the web are the following, although I would have liked the left version’s color to be reversed, so that Rothko is in black and Ken in red:


And of course, the Donmar Warehouse (first ever performance) version:


A similar fiasco can be found with posters of film Gravity: left, IMAX poster in the States, right, well… self-explanatory, really.


p.s. I would have loved to try out the Rothko Cookies from Portland Center Stage.

p.p.s. But why, I must ask, in Seoul Arts Center, did Chet Baker’s Pent Up House turn into Elvis Presley’s It’s Now or Never? The detail, at least for me, was not insignificant and would have felt entirely different.


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