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Seeing RED Magnus Theatre

THUNDER BAY, ON  ------ March 16, 2014  --- I am not sure how long it is that I have been attending the theatre, certainly many years, Red Magnus Theatre and I have never seen a production which brings the topic of visual art to the stage until now. The art in question is not something that can be readily appreciated; in fact I would call it difficult art to understand. As I was waiting to enter the theatre I tried to anticipate exactly what the show would be all about, how would John Logan approach visual art on stage? Thunder Bay's Magnus Theatre  Red runs until March 29th,

Needless to say whatever I imagined the show might be like was completely blown out of the water by the end of the first half. As I wandered the hallway to the lobby I noticed some friends of mine looking at the art images posted on the wall. When I joined in the conversation I soon realized that these ladies really knew a thing or two about art. They were well traveled and had actually seen many of these famous pieces of art in museums and galleries around the world. It was then that I realized that a good part of this production is the artwork posted in the halls and lobby of the theatre. Now for the first time I can look at a piece of “expressionist” art and actually have a clue what the painting is all about.

During the first half of the play the dialog between the two characters, the famous contemporary artist Rocha and his newly hired assistant was extremely intense, both emotionally as well as in content. At times I thought you needed to know a thing or two about psychology to begin to appreciate the conversation or you might be left out! I found the dialog very engaging and did not even notice that this was a two actor production with only two characters. I think this is a good thing because I really had to concentrate on the dialogue so that I would not miss a thing, and extra characters would have complicated this story.

Intermissions serve many purposes but when it is over patrons should feel refreshed when the return to their seats. In my case I used the time to reflect on what I had just seen on stage. There were some interesting threads that might possibly be part of a plot, but they were not developed enough to guess where the second half might lead. This play is like an onion, there are many different levels of understanding. This means that several people could see this play and every one of them would go out with a different interpretation of what they had just seen. Mark Weatherley playsMark Rothko an established contemporary artist and father of the expressionist school of art did a marvelous rant on people who like things. So whatever I might say about this play it would not be proper to say “I like it”. How can you “like” a painting which is about pathos or tragedy and even death? He was so involved in his work that for someone to “like it” meant that they actually had no appreciation of the work.

As the second half of the play resumed the layers of the onion began to peel back, there were so many concepts coming out of the dialogue I would not think it possible to put so much material into the scope of a 2 hour play. These were not superficial issues but real human strife and struggle with the need to be unique and at the same time understood. To my mind these elements of the play are as significant as anything that Shakespeare might have written, perhaps even better.

Jordan Campbell plays the young assistant. He is tough, thinks for himself and once he has tested the waters has the strength to stand his own ground. In the 1958 with work so hard to find it might have been possible to get away with being treated in this way by his employer. Rothko on the other hand was hoping for someone who would have the strength to challenge him, and from that moment on he developed a respect for his young assistant.

I had occasion to speak with Jordan Campbell’s mother at the end of the play, she had come up from London to see her son’s first professional performance on stage. He was inspired, and his youthful energy and enthusiasm for this play lead to an incredible performance and I predict that he will return to the Magnus stage in years to come.

One thing that I had noticed was the audience. There were many couple varying in age from their 20’s to fifty’s in addition to the usual crowd. It was nice to see young people in the theatre and it shows that Magnus is being successful in developing a future audience.

This play is something different, and something to think about. At the very least you will have a different appreciation for expressionism in art when you leave the theatre. It runs until March 29th and is well worth taking in. Call the box office at 345-5552 for tickets and more information.

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor:

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