Poor Richard’s Players, a local acting company, began in founding member Benjamin Loewy’s living room and has performed a dozen shows at several venues in the three years since then.
“Our first shows were at the Las Vegas Little Theatre, but we’ve played a few places since,” Loewy said. “We’ll work at any venue that will have us.”
Loewy and his friends Maxim Lardent and Lysander Abadia were recording their podcast, the “LVTAP Show,” which stands for Las Vegas Theatre Art Production, when the idea struck them. The three had worked together for another theater company and were discussing their love of theater when it occurred to them that they should create one.
“Our first production was, ‘The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged),’ and it was a hit,” Loewy said. “We ended up doing turn-away business. It was a great way to enter the theater community here.”
The play was written by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and features the same close attention to details of the original book and the irreverent attitude the group took with the Bard’s work.
The Poor Richard’s Players, not content to rest on their laurels, took another challenging production for their second outing.
“We performed, ‘Adventures in Mating’ at Theatre7,” Loewy said. “It’s a choose-your-own-adventure show with 60 different combinations of script.”
He said from there, the group has gone on to bigger and better things, including productions of “The Pillowman,” “Godspell” and “The Normal Heart.”
The group’s current production is, “Red,” a six-time Tony Award-winning play set to be performed through Jan. 25 at the Onyx Theatre.
“It’s a beautiful piece of work,” said Loewy, who is directing it. “The dialogue and the writing is so amazing. It just reached out and grabbed me. I’ve never been so passionate about directing a piece.”
The play features only two characters: abstract expressionist Mark Rothko and his new assistant, Ken. It is set in 1958-59, just after Rothko received what was at the time the largest commission ever, $35,000, to paint a series of new murals for a new restaurant in the Seagram Building.
“It’s set at a time when big pop art is taking over the scene,” Loewy said. “Rothko is trying to maintain a legacy of Impressionist painting in a new era, but he and his assistant have very different ideas about art and the motivation for art.”
Loewy said the production has been in rehearsals for two months, but that the troupe has been ready to go for a month.
“Taylor Hanes plays Rothko, and Corey Goble plays his assistant,” Loewy said. “They’re both powerhouse actors. They work so well together. They’re just captivating to watch.”
Hanes said the play is coming along but that it was a demanding role . He has put in a lot of work researching the part, reading “Mark Rothko: A Biography” by James E. B. Breslin, studying the artist’s work and watching a short film featuring Rothko’s daughter giving a tour of his work.
“I didn’t know a dang thing about Rothko before I started researching for this,” Hanes said. “I wouldn’t say I’m an expert now, but I know a lot more. We just try to do the best we can.”
For Loewy, exposing Las Vegas to the play is timely and important.
“The play is asking, ‘What is art?’ That’s the heart of it,” Loewy said. “I feel that’s an integral conversation for this theater community and this art community.”
Performances of “Red” are scheduled at 8 p.m. Jan. 16, 17, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara Ave. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit onyxtheatre.com.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at email@example.com or 702-380-4532.