I saw Artists Rep's farcical spy comedy Red Herring last weekend. Haven't gotten around to writing about it sooner because it's very much one of those "not for me, but other people will like it" shows—hard to muster up the energy to say "meh." Mercury readers might not be the target demo for this one, but at last Sunday's matinee, everyone in the room *fucking loved it.*
Red Herring is a spoofy thriller about a hard-boiled lady detective, her FBI-agent lover, and a hapless scientist turned spy who just happens to be engaged to Joe McCarthy's daughter. There are lots of hijinks and mistaken identities and star-crossed lovers; the whole thing can fairly be described as a "romp."
The biggest problem with Artists Rep's production, other than a frankly mediocre and needlessly sentimental script, was the pacing. What should have been a madcap piling of absurd joke upon absurd joke instead went more like "absurd joke... [pause for scene change]." The audience really shouldn't be allowed that much time to reflect on characters or plot—because those things are broad-stroked and sketchy, and don't hold up to scrutiny particularly well.
Here are a few things you can expect from the show.
Vana O'Brien stealing every single scene she's in. She's so good.
Lots of WOMEN, amirite men?? type jokes. 'Cause marriage.
Leif Norby just fucking nailing a range of bit characters. (More funny roles for him, please.)
A surprisingly miscast Michael Mendleson.
Audience members laughing so hard they begin openly weeping, while your friendly neighborhood theater critic looks on in bemusement.
Red Herring runs through March 23 at Artists Rep. More info and tickets here.
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