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Boutcher Theatre Company's 'Red' Paints the Stage with Passion

'Red' is an extraordinary play that encapsulates the world of art.

By Marielle SabbagPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Dan Kelly (Mark Rothko), left, and Chloe Olwell (Ken), right, performing as scene in 'Red.'

Create art that is true to you.

In its opening debut, Boutcher Theatre Company presents Red, a play written by John Logan. The story focuses on the complex life of artist, Mark Rothko. Rothko and his young assistant, Ken, clash about art and human needs, leading to how ideas become creations.

The provocative performance of Red thrilled audiences with its riveting themes and mesmerizing performances. Red is an extraordinary play that encapsulates the world of art. Best described as an abstract art piece with astonishing depth wrapped in its layers, Red is a profound exploration of art and human emotions.

Dan Kelly and Chloe Olwell delivered exceptional performances as Mark Rothko and Ken. Kelly and Olwell never met before production on Red started, but the electric chemistry between them created an authentic dynamic of their character’s tumultuous relationship.

Their acting talents bequeathed newfound touchstones, delivering powerful dialogue. Kelly captures Rothko’s complex persona - a nuanced blend of arrogance, passion, and vulnerability. Kelly went so far in studying his character that he flew to Texas to see the Rothko Chapel! He described playing Rothko as cathartic, delving into the depths of the artist’s psyche.

Since Orwell's character is not based on a specific person, she created Ken from a blank slate. Orwell conquered a rousing performance and a well-acted rant about their frustrations with Rothko’s methods. I felt entranced by her exhilarating actions and emotions.

Director Bradley Boutcher’s fierce passion for theater was evident in every aspect of this production. Pondering the play since the pandemic, his first idea was to make Red as a film. He scrapped the idea, preferring a more intimate setting.

Boutcher arrived with fresh eyes and thought from the audience's perspective. ‘You can’t help but hear [the show],’ he remarked. ‘Make something new that is true to you.”

Director Bradley Boutcher talking about 'Red' joined by actors, Dan Kelly and Chloe Olwell, and painter consultant, Alan Bull.

For the play’s intricate production design, a paint shop was set up in a large storage room at Sully’s Brand in Beverly, MA. A table crowded with art supplies, surrounded by a paint-splattered drop cloth conveyed the intensity of Rothko’s studio.

On each side of the stage are three distinct red murals. With help from painter consultant, Alan Bull, the cast and crew designed the murals together, paying specific attention to the colors. These red murals represent several ideas and meanings.

The technical elements and setting of the production created the vibrant and frenzied world of the play’s atmosphere. Lighting played a significant role, dimming or brightening in several key moments. To me, this represented the state of the character’s mental health. Red is more of an execution of the human mind than one thinks.

With only two rehearsals in the show space before opening, without any practice, Kelly and Olwell painted a red mural right in front of the audience. My eyes were locked on this moment, watching each brush stroke.

Red occupies several relatable themes. So much of the play rings true to artists, peeling away relevant ideas about human emotions. Through Rothko and Ken’s complex relationship, the play reminds us that we are all human beings and should not forget that.

What is art? Art takes you on a journey, evoking emotions, stories, and messages. As an artist, I always ask the question, what does this mean? We’re all carrying a story inside of us that’s aching to break free. Stay true to your artistic vision and keep creating.

Boutcher Theatre Company’s Red is a powerful and thought-provoking theatrical experience that resonates on multiple levels. Do not miss it. It plays at Sully’s Brand in Beverly, MA until April 14.

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About the Creator

Marielle Sabbag

Writing has been my passion since I was 11 years old. I love creating stories from fiction, poetry, fanfiction. I enjoy writing movie reviews. I would love to become a creative writing teacher and leave the world inspiring minds.

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