Theatre Info for the Richmond region

Virginia Rep Red

By • May 9th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Virginia Rep: (Info) (Web)
Virginia Rep Center – Theatre Gym, Richmond, VA
Through June 16th
1:40 without intermission
$10-$34 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed May 8th, 2013

Once again, my job as a teacher met my job as a reviewer. Red is History – a dramatized story account of 20th century painter Mark Rothko and a young, fictional assistant named Ken. Red is Language Arts – a character study of two diametrically opposite men, as well as a study on the use of language as an art form. Red is Psychology as it studies what makes two artists thing, act and see the way they do. Red is Math – two actors plus one act equals an evening of entertainment. And of course, Red is Art – as it studies the dynamics of what makes art, how an artist creates that work and how an audience responds.

The play begins as interpretational art itself; as 15 minutes before the play begins, Rothko (David Bridgewater) begins to lurk around the stage: turning lights on and off, cleaning his brushes (in a working sink-nice touch!), and staring pensively at various canvases set up around the stage – most intently at one invisible one behind the audience, which makes the audience feel as if they too are being judged and sized up by this master painter.

The opening was so innovative, that it even left the audience to “interpret” whether or not the show had started! Some members sat silently and intently watching Bridgewater move about the stage; while others continued to carry on their own conversations at full volume until others “shushed” them. (I learned more about one woman’s medical condition than I would ever want to know). It was also impressive that it was a full house on a Wednesday evening.

The play is set in the late 1950s as abstract expressionist painter Rothko struggles to complete a commission for a commercial project – a mural for New York City’s Four Seasons Restaurant. Rothko and his new assistant go head to head on the methods and purpose of art and the dynamic relationship between an artist, his work and his audience.

When Maxwell Eddy (Ken) enters, the awkward silence continues as Rothko makes his new assistant analyze the invisible painting behind the audience. Eventually he is asked what he “sees.” His reply: “Red.” But as the audience learns through the next hour and a half, color has many meanings and interpretations. Rothko says the audience must get “close” and let the “picture do its work” but also the audience must “meet it halfway” and “engage it.”

The actors themselves display unique and diverse “styles” both as artists and actors. Bridgewater’s Rothko is demanding and demanding; pompous, loud and self-assured. Eddy’s Ken is reserved and introspective, having been a victim in one form or another his entire life, yet still emerging as a strong force opposite Rothko. Bridgewater acts through his booming voice, his raging emotions and his ever-moving body. Eddy acts with his face, his eyes and his clearly visible thought processes. Together, they make art.

Director Christopher Owens, makes art as well, by keeping his actors moving, the dialogue crisp and the action visually appealing. Record player music interspersed throughout the show helps build the scene and emotions. However, some scene changes (which were more about costume changes since the set never changes) seemed to drag on like, pardon the expression, watching paint dry. Also, with live cigarette smoke, a small electric fan was added to apparently try to keep it from blowing into the audience, but as one with allergies to smoke I can tell you it didn’t work and only served as a distraction as the actors talked over it and turned it on and off.

Rothko, when challenged by Ken about making his art commercial, in the end cancels the $35,000 contract, preserving his art. As Rothko says, art is a decision about what I like, versus what I respect. As a piece of art, I both liked and respected the performances and the show.

Photo Gallery

David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy
David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy
David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy
Maxwell Eddy and David Bridgewater Maxwell Eddy and David Bridgewater
Maxwell Eddy and David Bridgewater
Maxwell Eddy and David Bridgewater
David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy
David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy
David Bridgewater and Maxwell Eddy
Maxwell Eddy and David Bridgewater
Maxwell Eddy and David Bridgewater

Photos by Jay Paul


  • Mark Rothko: David Bridgewater
  • Ken: Maxwell eddy


  • Director: Christopher Owens
  • Stage Manager: Rick Brandt
  • Light Board/ Sound Operator: Linwood Guyton
  • Wardrobe: Nikki Wragg
  • Deck Crew: Joey Sauthoff
  • Set Design: Jacob Sailer
  • Lighting Design: Lynne M. Hartman
  • Costume Design: Sarah Grady

Disclaimer: Virginia Rep provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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