Art's Agony and EcstasyArt, artists, and the act of creation get their due in Red, a 2010 Tony Award-winner by playwright John Logan. Opening this week at Cleveland Play House, the provocative drama takes its cue from an episode in the life of temperamental mid-century artist Mark Rothko. Rothko accepted a fabulously lucrative commission in the late 1950s to paint murals for The Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. He worked furiously for three months on the so-called Seagram Murals — only to eventually repudiate the restaurant and give back his commission. Among other things, Logan speculates on the inner demons that might have given rise to that puzzling decision in this intense, two-man drama, which unfolds as an intellectual throwdown between Rothko and a fictional protégé. Examinations of aesthetics, philosophy, and the entire history of Western Art ensue. Red opens in the Allen Theatre on March 16 and runs through April 8, with performances daily except Mondays. Ticket prices range from $15 to $69. Get yours by phone or online. — Elaine T. Cicora
The Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000, clevelandplayhouse.comThe Colombi New Plays Festival: Ensemble Theatre presents three new works by local playwrights, running in repertory through April 1. Dancing With N.E.D., written and directed by Tyler Whidden. March 17, 23, 29, and April 1. Destroying the Light by Sasha Thackaberry, directed by Peter Voinovich. March 15, 18, 24, 30, and April 1. Grounds for Dismissal by Cindy Dettelbach, directed by Celeste Cosentino; March 16, 22, 25, 31, and April 1. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students with valid ID. Or snag a three-show pass for $30. Get them at 216-321-2930 or online at ensemble-theatre.org, where you will also find showtimes. Ensemble Theatre is at 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.
Darwinii: The Comeuppance of Man: One of the best stage shows of '11 returns to Cleveland Public Theatre through March 17. Tickets are $10 to $25 at 216-631-2727 or cptonline.org. It happens in the Storefront Studio at 6415 Detroit Ave. in the Gordon Square Arts District.
The Hyacinth Macaw: Convergence-Continuum launches its 2012 season with the Cleveland premiere of Mac Wellman's 1994 surreal/absurdist comedy. The play opens March 16 and continues at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through April 7 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd. Tickets are $10, $12, and $15 at 216-687-0074 or convergence-continuum.org.
Middletown: Amid the smallville charm of Middletown, there exists a lesser known other side. Dobama's production of the play by Will Eno explores the culture of America's li'l communities — a culture that's complex, mysterious, and often surprising. Staged by artistic director Joel Hammer, the action continues through March 18. Tickets range from $10 to $26 at 216-932-3396 or dobama.org. Dobama Theatre is at 2340 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights.
Flanagan's Wake: Part improv, part scripted, this interactive Irish wake continues at Kennedy's Theatre through April 28. Tickets are $22 at 216-241-6000 or playhousesquare.org. Kennedy's is beneath the Ohio Theatre lobby at 1501 Euclid Ave.
God's Trombones: Karamu's seasonal fave features seven stirring "Negro sermons" set to music, dance, and verse. House critic Christine Howey has called previous years' productions "a riveting and inspirational experience." Performances are set for March 16 through April 5 at 2355 East 89th St. Tickets are $25 to $30 at 216-795-7077 or karamuhouse.org.
The Mousetrap: Great Lakes Theater kicks off the second half of its 50th anniversary season at the Hanna Theatre with this murder mystery from Agatha Christie. See Christine Howey's review in this issue.
Poor Little Lulu: Cleveland Public Theatre presents a "vintage circus of comic debauchery," in this cautionary tale of greed, lust, and assorted sexual hijinx Written by freelance playwright Matthew Earnest, the play continues through Saturday, March 24. Performances are 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays. Tickets are $10 to $25 by phone, online, or at the box office. CPT is at 6415 Detroit Ave.; call 216-631-2727 or visit cptonline.org.