New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

For great Jersey music and much more, tune into our radio station at

Review of "Red" at George Street Playhouse

By Gary Wien

(FEBRUARY 5, 2012 -- NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- I'll put it as simply as I can… Red is the best play I've seen in years. Written by John Logan, Red won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2010 and George Street's production certainly does it justice. Set in the 1950s, the play takes a look at the Russian-American painter, Mark Rothko, as he undertakes the most ambitious project of his career -- a set of murals designed exclusively for the new Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram's Building. While the play provides an amazing insight into the creative process of Rothko and a fascinating look into modern art, it's also a wonderful coming of age story that deals with Rothko's assistant and his quest to become an artist in his own right.

You don't have to know a lot about art to appreciate Red, but those who recognize the names of modern artists like Jackson Pollak, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein might get a little more out of it. Regardless of your level of expertise, you'll witness two exceptional performances by the performances of Bob Ari (Rothko) and Randy Harrison (Ken) and will most likely leave knowing more about art than when you arrived. It's become a bit of a cliche to point out the quality of acting at George Street, which consistently fields tremendous casts, but the theatre once again brings quality Broadway actors and a great director (Anders Cato) to the region.

Red takes place entirely inside the studio of Rothko. As the play opens, Ken enters, hoping to be hired as Rothko's assistant. The interview basically consists of Rothko quizzing Ken on his thoughts on the painting before him. The color red is the first thing to pop into Ken's mind. From early on, it's clear that Rothko is going to serve as Ken's mentor -- both in art and in life itself. Rothko advises Ken on books he should read, the finer techniques of art, philosophy, and the meaning of colors. For Rothko, art is a bit of a contradiction. He believes art is based on movement, but the process also involves patience -- sometimes even staring at a painting for weeks on end before doing anything else.

"How do you know when they're done?" Ken asks.

"When there's tragedy in every brush stroke," replied Rothko.

Rothko isn't just intent on being a great artist, he wants to create something the world has never seen before. He believes his audience doesn't fully appreciate the pain that goes into each work. Annoyed with fame, he struggles with the idea that his work is simply becoming a piece of furniture. The Four Seasons project will change all of that, Rothko believes because it's the ideal location for his work. To Rothko, it will be a place with the perfect lighting, the perfect arrangements, and a place where people could take the time to study his paintings with as much care as he does. In his mind, it will be a temple for his work.

"But it's a restaurant," said Ken.

"I will make it a temple," said a determined Rothko.

The play transpires over a period of two years in which Ken learns much about Rothko but the temperamental artist never peers inside his assistant's life, choosing to keep the student/mentor relationship in one piece. In David Saint's pre-play announcement, George Street's Artistic Director said he chose this play to be part of the season dedicated to the late Arthur Laurents because it reminded him of the relationship he had with Arthur.

As Ken becomes more comfortable around Rothko, he begins to challenge him more and more -- especially around the topic of the emerging pop art world. Rothko onced bragged that artists like Pollak and himself helped crush the cubist movement after first being inspired by it, sort of like the child killing the parent. Ken notices how Rothko appears threatened by artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, barely considering them art at all and says that their mistake is making art that everyone will love rather than art that is real.

"When someone tells me one of my pictures is beautiful, I want to vomit," explained Rothko. "I'm here to make you think, I'm not here to make pretty pictures."

One day Rothko passes by his house and overhears a couple say, "I wonder who lives here that owns all those Rothkos" and he realizes that his fame is taking over. He believes fame ruined Pollak and worries that it will destroy him as well. "Just like that I've become a noun… An 'over the mantle' -- just a piece of furniture that's cheaper than a Pollak."

For as much as Ken admires Rothko, he also sees through the phonyness in the artist's beliefs, specifically that the Four Seasons Restaurant will be a temple for his work. He tells Rothko that he's no different from Pollak; both have sold out. During one heated debate, Ken believes he may have crossed the line. "I'm fired aren't I?" Rothko surprises him by saying, "Fired? This is the first time you've ever existed." -- it's clear that Rothko desperately wants to have someone he believes is on the same level as him around. He needs a foil to verbally debate.

Rothko decides to visit the restaurant for himself. What he finds will forever change him and how he views his assistant.

Red shows the greatness of theatre. For 90 minutes straight (no intermission), we become wrapped in an intellectual discussion of art and life itself. The dialogue is simply amazing, rapidly firing back and forth in a way that locks the audience's attention. It's a powerful drama that will leave your mind buzzing.

Bob Ari's performance is brilliant and Randy Harrison reminded me of the late River Phoenix, a comparison I do not make lightly because I still believe River would have been one of the greatest actors of my generation. Red is scheduled to run until February 26. I cannot recommend this play enough!

Photos by T. Charles Erickson

For more by this author, click here

"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in conjunction with TROIKA Entertainment is will present KINKY BOOTS, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for KINKY BOOTS), at Sound Waves in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City from April 30 until May 5 with two performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets starting at $35.00.
The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm


Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

View all events

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.