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a Drama
by John Logan

COMPANY : Yard Dogs Ensemble [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Robert Mello Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 5519

SHOWING : June 07, 2019 - June 23, 2019



Master abstract expressionist Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art, a series of murals for New York’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant.

In the two fascinating years that follow, Rothko works feverishly with his young assistant, Ken, in his studio on the Bowery. But when Ken gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing.

Raw and provocative, RED is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

Winner of the 2010 Tony Award.

Director Melissa Simmons
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Seeing Red
by playgoer
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
John Logan’s "Red" depicts artist Mark Rothko’s two-year journey to fulfill a commission to create a mural wall for the Four Seasons Restaurant in Philip Johnson’s new Seagrams Building. This is a two-man show, pairing Rothko with a new assistant, Ken, who is an aspiring artist himself. During the play, we see Ken develop his own artistic sensibilities and Rothko pronounce, and then question his own. In the right hands, the show can become a powerhouse display of emotions and artistic philosophy. In the Yard Dogs Ensemble production, the show doesn’t seem to be in ideal hands.

Director Melissa Simmons tries to make a feature out of scene changes by playing music (mostly classical), as Robert Mello (Rothko) and Jase Wingate (Ken) make stylized movements in dim pools of light (lighting design by Lindsey Sharpless). This pseudo-choreography is almost laughable in execution, spoiling any effect the preceding scene might have had. The only one of these sequences having some useful impact is when Rothko paints his wrist with a slash of red, foreshadowing his ultimate suicide, and the following scene undercuts that impact.

The actors are certainly invested in their roles, but their performances don’t capture the imagination. Mr. Mello has great diction, but suffers from an intrinsically inexpressive, flat delivery of the sort usually associated with newbie actors trying overly hard to project. He has lots of levels of vocal projection, but the overwhelming sense of his performance is of his mouth chewing out the words while his eyes seem impassive behind his glasses.

The character of Ken starts the play as a fairly unsophisticated individual, his artistic sensibilities honed under the tutelage of Rothko as the play proceeds. There’s no sense of uncertainty in this development, though; he just suddenly seems to be spouting arcane philosophical views when the lines require it. There’s a scene in which he remembers sad events from the past, and this scene seems to be done as a monologue in acting class, with no appreciable transition from the previous dialogue, and consequently feeling false as a result.

The set is fine, consisting of some large canvases, sawhorses, ladders and a couple of surfaces for paints and for coffee, in addition to a record player and an Adirondack chair stage left. It looks very much like an artist’s studio, and Lillian Johnson’s props flesh this out admirably. Lucas Scott has constructed one movable wall for hanging canvases, but otherwise the walls and doors of the black box theatre define the space.

"Red" is a little high-blown in its discussions of the modern art world, as filtered through the eyes of the curmudgeonly Rothko. In the wrong hands, this could become a tediously pretentious disquisition on "Art" with a capital "A." The Yard Dogs production has enough variety of action, volume, and emotional levels that tedium isn’t an issue, but the production as a whole misses the mark. Two luminously engaging performances are needed, and this production doesn’t have that. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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