John Logan's Tony-winning play looks at the life and work of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, a soldier in the art wars of the 20th century who helped to kill cubism and surrealism. In the play's now, circa 1958-59, Rothko (Tony Abatemarco) is feeling threatened by the new generation of Pop artists, including Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, who seem bent on killing abstract expressionism. When Rothko receives a fat commission to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City's Seagram Building, he hires an assistant, Ken (Patrick Stafford), whom he works like a dog and treats with arrogance and irascibility — but also educates along the way. Their impassioned debate covers a multitude of ideas, including the artist's need for a broad cultural background, the conflict (or symbiosis) between the Dionysian and the Apollonian, and Rothko's lifelong battle against depression. Director caryn desai provides an impeccable production on JR Bruce's soaring set, and she's splendidly served by her actors: Abatemarco eloquently captures Rothko's humor as well as his fervor, while Stafford provides an indelible sketch of the young man who's transformed by their association from shy nebbish to militant challenger of the Master. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Sept. 15. (562) 436-4610,

Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 29, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 5, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 12, 8 p.m. Starts: Aug. 23. Continues through Sept. 15, 2013

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