The second season of Mad Men had a memorable episode in which the Sterling Cooper execs were befuddled by boss Bert Cooper’s new Mark Rothko painting. It’s too bad the strictures of the space-time continuum didn’t allow for them to see Red, John Logan’s 2010 Tony Award–winning play about the great Abstract Expressionist painter. Set in 1958, Logan’s illuminating drama follows Rothko as he works on his controversial murals commissioned for New York’s Four Seasons restaurant, revealing the hard-headed, tortured and deadly serious artist behind those minimal canvases. In Canadian Stage’s outstanding production—the play’s Canadian premiere—Jim Mezon is magnetic as a chain-smoking, paint-spattered Rothko, who berates and educates a callow young assistant (David Coomber) while agonizing over his own aspirations and legacy. Kim Collier, the artistic director from Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, works subtle magic with the aid of David Boechler’s ingenious set—a giant white cube that breaks to reveal Rothko’s cluttered studio—and Alan Brodie’s delicate lighting. Whether or not Rothko’s art is to your taste, you’ll come away with a greater appreciation of what it cost him to create it.