Inside D.C. entertainment

Overheard in the Rothko room: A one-act play on art and death

July 5, 2011 - 03:05 PM
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Photo courtesy of the Phillips Collection.

SETTING: The Phillips Collection museum (where TBD will be hanging out with Carla Hall for Phillips After 5 this Thursday!). A white space the size of a large walk-in closet. One Mark Rothko painting hangs on each wall. A reporter lurks in the corner.

CHARACTERS: MOM, middle-aged woman in Chico's-type dress; THREE BOYS, of vague age but likely 10-16; GIRL, between 6-9 years old; EUROPEAN WOMAN, with excellent posture and chic accent.

SCENE: EUROPEAN WOMAN sits on bench, observing the paintings in thoughtful fashion. MOM enters room with THREE BOYS and GIRL. GIRL and BOY 3 plop on bench. BOY 2 sits on floor. BOY 1 hoovers awkwardly with MOM next to "Green and Tangerine on Red."

MOM: (reverently) Do you recognize this?

BOY 1: No.

MOM: It’s hanging in our house.

BOY 1: (with no enthusiasm) I never noticed.

MOM: (to BOY 2) Don’t sit on the floor.

BOY 2 stands.

MOM: I want you to give me five adjectives to describe this painting.

BOY 1: (dutifully) Cool. Boring. Creative. Stunning.

MOM: But you’re bored. How can it be stunning if you’re bored?

Inaudible exchange between MOM and BOY

MOM: Go on.

BOY 1: Blue. And purplish.

MOM: I reject purplish. I accept blue because it can have multiple meanings. It can also suggest melancholy.

EUROPEAN WOMAN: (turns to speak to MOM) Actually, he was depressed. He killed himself.

GIRL: How’d he kill himself?

BOY 3: (guessing wildly) He hung himself.

Inaudible, lengthy speech from MOM about meditation and gazing.

GIRL: (ignoring BOY) How’d he kill himself?

Inaudible speech from MOM about people becoming sad, either because of circumstances of “something organic.”

GIRL: But how’d he do it?

MOM: (long pause) I think he shot himself.

GIRL: Why.

MOM: Because he was so sad.

Inaudible speech from MOM about some museum in Texas. MOM, BOYS, and GIRL stand up and begin exiting the room.

GIRL: (to herself) Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t kill myself.


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