“Red” is a two-person play, a long meditation on Rothko’s effort at completing a set of murals. In typical tormented-artist fashion, the process involves Rothko delving into all the Big Questions: Can art be profitable and maintain integrity? What is the impact of loss? How do we come to terms with the passage of time? He does all this grand grappling with Ken, played by Patrick Andrews, who as Rothko’s assistant is sort of the Apprentice to his Sorcerer, dealing with issues of his own: How much of the grand tradition of Rothko must he honor? And can he do it while still embarking on his own individual path?
“It really is at its core about a relationship between these two men,” said Gero. “Generationally, what makes art? What is good art? And in some ways, it’s a bit of a critique of popular culture. Rothko . . . took the making of art very, very seriously. He asks a lot of the viewer: to spend time with his paintings. To delve and reflect. And I don’t know that we’re of a culture that wants to do that. He bangs up against the pop art world.”
Dec. 8 at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW, www. phillipscollection.org, 202-387-2151.
The best way to describe the “Christmas Revels,” the celebration of the winter solstice held at George Washington Lisner Auditorium, is “big.”
At any given moment in the show, 100 people could be onstage. Those people come from every walk of theatrical life: trained actors, a children’s chorus, a teen chorus, an adult chorus, professional musicians, tradition bearers from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The show is seen by 10,000 people over the course of the run.
“Revels, in and of itself, is a sprawling undertaking,” said Greg Lewis, Washington Revels executive director. “Revels weaves in music, dance, drama, story and ritual.”
The narrative loosely follows two adventurers who happen upon a treasure when they travel back in time from the Spanish Renaissance to 10th-century Cordoba.
The treasure discovered by the adventurers turns out to be magical; the objects come to life when touched. Singing and dancing ensue, woven together with poetry and drama.
It’s a massive cross-cultural endeavor: Arab-Andalusian music back to back with Sephardic songs; Spanish folk carols alongside North African dance.
This is the 29th year Washington has put on a Revels show — there are numerous other Revels cities across the country — and, Lewis said, there are audience members returning this year for the 25th time. “There’s something about Revels that reaches to a core. This sense of creating community and becoming part of a community that crosses these cultural lines.
“At the real root bottom, it’s the very fact of presenting, onstage, the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions together. . . . That’s worthy of celebration.”
Friday through Sunday at GW Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. www.revelsdc.org. 1-800-595-4849.