REVIEW ROUNDUP: Red, with Alfred Molina, at Donmar Warehouse
The play centers on a moment in Rothko's life when he is attempting to tackle the challenge of creating a definitive work for an extraordinary setting. Molina stars as the artist and Eddie Redmayne plays his young assistant.
The reviews are out and while critics have been mixed in their reception of the play, Molina's performance has garnered almost unanimous praise.
Among the reviews for Red are:Bloomberg
Rothko's a Monster in New Play, Bully Baron Pursues Ingenue: London Stage
"...playwright John Logan portrays Rothko (1903-1970) as a monster of selfishness, pretension and jaw-aching verbosity. The writing is so slow and lacking in dramatic conflict that it can't help tainting the subject. ... Alfred Molina does his best to round out the flat role of Rothko. He varies the tone of the long monologues with occasional notes of despair, anger and sardonic dryness."
"Audiences expecting neat life lessons about artists or a simple-minded attack upon/salute to abstract art will be disappointed. "Red" is far more ambitious, which makes its success all the more satisfying. That its central character is such a key figure in American culture can only hasten the play's arrival in the U.S.
Red | Theatre review
"Michael Grandage's beautiful production is, as always, actor-driven. Alfred Molina, with his large frame and beetling eyebrows, has exactly the fierce intensity of an artist whose paintings were a dynamic battle between Apollo and Dionysus, and who once said that he saw art as a means of direct access to the "wild terror and suffering" at the heart of human existence."
Red at the Donmar Warehouse, review
"Unfortunately the play, which uses the tired device of a new assistant arriving at the studio, so that Rothko can bang on about his art, life and opinions, is far less riveting than the paintings themselves, superbly re-created in Christopher Oram's wonderful design."
First Night: Red, Donmar Warehouse, London
"For the kind of intense, but often bitchily witty debate that the play conducts, it would be hard to think of better casting. A shaven-headed, bespectacled Alfred Molina plays Rothko splendidly as an almost Asperger's-syndrome, tunnel-visioned visionary who is exorbitantly intent on turning his studio - and life - into a stage-managed theatrical set where the work can be seen in the best possible artificial light."
The Times UK
Red at the Donmar, WC2
"Moreover, Molina's blunt, bitter, baleful Rothko is able to communicate a ferocious pessimism to Eddie Redmayne's Ken, the aspiring artist who becomes his assistant and much misused lackey. Indeed, he rages unforgettably against the dying of the light as it is represented by those paintings in which rectangles of black overwhelm the reds he saw as symbolising life."
"But there is no doubting the brilliance of Alfred Molina's performance which inhabits Rothko's despair almost as if he is trapped inside one of the dark black lines of a Seagram mural."
"Two reasons to rejoice at the Donmar: a really good play about art (Art is about friendship, not art), something of a rarity, by an unknown writer, John Logan, and the overdue return to the stage of Alfred Molina as the gloomy dauber Mark Rothko."
London Theatre Guide
First Night Feature: Red
"Alfred Molina plays the artist as a volatile, self-obsessed man whose mood swings from one extreme to the other quicker than his assistant can hand him a paintbrush. He ably depicts the central paradox of Rothko and perhaps any artist; that he is not painting to gain public approval, to be liked, to be commercial, and yet he must be commercial to make a living."