Over this weekend we saw two performances that we highly recommend if you live in the DC area and like live theatre.
But you’ll have to ‘act’ quickly as one of the performances ends Feb. 18 and the other ends Mar. 11.
First, Necessary Sacrifices at Ford’s Theatre, the one that ends Feb. 18.
This one is basically a two-person play focused on the three meetings between President Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Based on historical documents*, it is the story of two visionaries, both from humble and brutal backgrounds, and how they came to respect and care about each other.
You need not be a Lincoln scholar nor an expert on the Civil War, slavery, or the 1860s to enjoy this production and to learn more than you probably already know about a part of our history and about these two men.
If you do have knowledge and background about this part of our history, I think you will find much to like in Necessary Sacrifices and suspect your knowledge of these two men will only deepen as a result of spending the evening with them.
Lincoln is played by David Selby and Douglas by Craig Wallace. Selby is not new to Lincoln and captures him well. Wallace’s portrayal of Douglas seemed less authentic to me (tho I readily admit my knowledge of Douglas is thin), or less powerful.
The evening is a good one, a mixture of art and history, and the setting of Ford’s Theatre adds to the evening.
(*Two of the three meetings between Lincoln and Douglas have been documented, and the evening we saw the production, Harvard historian John Stauffer, who has written Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Doughlas and Abraham Lincoln, told the audience, following the play, that what was represented on stage is largely historically accurate.)
You have a bit more time to see Red, John Logan’s play about the artist Mark Rothko.
I saw this play, though with different actors, in its Broadway production a year or two ago where it won the 2010 Tony award for Best Play of the Year. You can see my thoughts about the play and that production Here.
Seeing it a second time only reinforced my feeling that “the play does what good theatre should do: it entertains; it makes you think; it teaches you; and it makes you want to know more about the subject(s).”
As in Necessary Sacrifices, you do not need to know (art) history nor much (anything) about Mark Rothko to enjoy the evening. And if you are knowledgeable about art, I suspect you will still appreciate the evening.
In this performance, the two leads, Edward Gero (Rothko) and Patrick Andrews (Ken), his hired assistant, are not as accomplished as Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne were in the London/NY production. But they are good enough.
Both Necessary Sacrifices and Red are largely built around dialogue between the two characters in each play. But both productions are easy to follow and are good theatre.
Addendum: I forgot to mention that Washington’s National Gallery of Art has on display (for a limited time) three of the paintings that Rothko produced and then refused to display at The Four Seasons restaurant in NYC Seagram’s building. These paintings, and where they should be housed, play an important role in Red.
Bob Thurston said:
I heartily second Rick’s recommendation of “Red” at Arena. Lots of great things about this short play but just one segment where the two actors engage in a rapid-fire discussion (you might call it combat I guess) with the concept and color of red as the subject, would be worth the time and expense if that were the only good part of the play. But it’s not– you think and learn a lot about art, the relationship of art and those who support it, about two evolving characters– and there are a lot of laughs to boot. Go see it if you can!
Nancy C Wilson said:
you hit the mark with these two plays! Although I thought “Red” at Arena was quite well acted–I have seen Ed Gero in several outstanding roles–Amadeus in particular, and a moving play at the Studio last year, I think, Where he played a shlubby small shop owner–completely unaware of life’s inner workings–until—
But the art in RED was made central to the character development in such an amazing way! Especially enjoyable when they did that energetic ballet of priming the canvas–
And “Necessary Sacrifices” at the Ford surprised me with the relevance to our current political situation–a president who is trying to compromise, and being reviled for it!
Bob and Nancy are right. The scene in “Red” where Rothko and Ken ‘prepare’ a canvas, a five minute battle of sorts, is a scene that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theatre.
And Nancy is also correct when she mentions that listening to Lincoln explain to Douglas how constrained he is by forces all around him resonates with what I suspect Obama must be feeling every day. Or at least I hope that is the reason he has not acted more forcefully.