Review: 'Red' at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse

Angelica Potter

Red is a Tony Award-winning play by John Logan. This intellectually stimulating drama, directed by Timothy L’Ecuyer, follows a two year period in the creative process of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, played by Peter Josephson, and his assistant Ken, played by John-Michael Breen. It begins in 1958 when Mark Rothko, at the height of his career, is commissioned to create a series of paintings for the new and very high-class Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. 

From start to finish this 90 minute play grabs the audience’s attention and never lets it go. It is captivating and offers a realistic glimpse into the world of an artist. The play shows the struggle, the sorrow, and the pain that an artist goes through to create. Red is an intimate look into the heart and soul of its two characters and their relationship with art, each other, and the world around them. 

John-Michael Breen and Peter Josephson in RED

John-Michael Breen and Peter Josephson in RED

The creative team involved with this production did an incredible job designing a realistic, functioning art studio. The detailed set, designed by Melissa Shakun, was filled with everything a real painter would need. The simple, yet complimentary, lighting, designed by Shawn Kaufman, gave the audience the feeling that we were not watching a play, but an artist in his studio creating his next masterpiece. My favorite element, however, was the background music (sound design by Neil Pankhurst) usually playing off a record player, it added realism and even more depth to the play.   

Peter Josephson, who portrayed Mark Rothko, and John-Michael Breen, who portrayed Ken, were dynamic, compelling and brought incredible life to the smart and witty script. Josephson gave a strong and passionate portrayal of the complex painter at work. Breen’s portrayal of Ken displayed expressive versatility and youthful exuberance while also showing Ken’s emotional depth and desire to learn and create beautiful and memorable art. Their contrasting yet complimenting characters were realistic and wonderfully portrayed.   

Red, playing at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until July 11th, is a terrific piece of theatre. Though it is best appreciated by a mature audience, I highly suggest if you are in New Hampshire this week to go check it out. It invites the audience to think, to feel, and to embark along with its characters on a journey of discovery and creation. 

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For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out:

Review: ‘The Hungry Hungry Games’. It’s good. Sort of… My Feelings Are Complicated…

“Acappella” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival” at the PTC