While artists can be notoriously temperamental — at least in the popular imagination — the Mark Rothko in John Logan’s 2010 Tony winner, Red, could win a prize for it. Self-righteous, rabidly opinionated and obsessed with what place he will occupy in art history, Rothko paces around his New York studio like a tiger in a too-small pen at the zoo. The latest Forward Theater CompanyM/a production (through Feb. 2 in Overture Center’s Playhouse) examines the artist’s creative process and the difficulty of reconciling one’s principles with art-world commerce.
We first meet the famed abstract artist in 1958, after he’s agreed to paint a series of works for the Four Seasons Restaurant. The commission will bring in serious money, but Rothko (played by American Players Theatre favorite Jim DeVita) fumes that his work will wind up among rich, thoughtless people who won’t appreciate it. He vents these feelings —
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