Karl Baker Olson and Thomas Derrah in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Red (Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)
Those of us who follow Boston's theater scene were not surprised to see actor Thomas Derrah garnering rave reviews for his performance of Mark Rothko in the SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of Red.
"Derrah’s nuanced performance is never less than breathtaking," wrote Terry Byrne in The Boston Globe.
Although Derrah gathered considerable theatrical honors across the U.S. including appearing on Broadway in Jackie: An American Life, New Englanders can be grateful that the talented Derrah steadfastly claims Boston as his home.
We can also be grateful that this out actor also spent time away. It seems, based on a recent interview with him in Boston Spirit, that prior work in Texas may have helped him shape his poignant Rothko portrayal. The magazine’s arts editor Loren King writes:
Derrah spent a season with the Alley Theater in Houston, and that experience may prove invaluable as he dives into the character of Rothko. It was only with his 1963 commission for The Rothko Chapel in Houston that the artist, who battled depression and committed suicide in 1970, was able to realize his dream of a truly contemplative environment in which to interact deeply with his artwork.
Derrah remembers walking into the Rothko Chapel and contemplating the abstract art. “I was completely and emotionally devastated,” he recalls. “These deep, intense emotions were vibrating. I kept going back there and just sitting. It was an extraordinary experience.”
I haven’t been able to make it over to SpeakEasy yet to witness Derrah’s Red magic yet. But if Byrne, and any number of my friends who have been there, are to be believed, I’ll be privileged to the best kind of deep, intense emotional experience that only a theatrical evening with Derrah can provide.
[James A. Lopata]
The SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Red, running now thru Feb. 4 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End. Tix/Info: 617-933-8600 or www.SpeakEasyStage.com.
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