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REVIEW: Farce the Thing in Red Herring (Theatre in the Round)

Michael Hollinger’s Red Herring, now playing at Theatre in the Round, is a bedroom farce whose mistaken identities and misunderstandings quickly spiral outside of the bedroom into potential nuclear war. That’s a slight exaggeration – but it does run very quickly , at least, into Cold War spycraft and nuclear weapons. The feel is entirely unlike Hollinger’s better-known dramedies (e.g., Opus) and has a very British air of humor to it.

A promotional image for Red Herring.

One of the chief exhibits in this production is the splendid set by Michael Hoover, which uses forced perspective and a few other devices to make TRP’s space seem positively cavernous. The show’s cat-and-mouse spy hunt covers a lot of locations, and there’s not a vomitorium or ledge that goes unused. A beautiful rendition of a classic painted advertisement adorns one wall, a Chekov’s gun if there ever was one.

Hollinger’s script has some clear favorites, giving most of the best lines to Laura Pelletier (Laura Hoover) and Lynn McCarthy (Maddy La Roche), around whose performances the slick dialogue pivots. Yes, I did say McCarthy – that’s Joseph McCarthy’s daughter, and Wisconsin has more than a fake-cheese role to play in the dénouement. The author layers on reveal after reveal; director Lynn Musgrave keeps things moving well, while carefully slowing the action for each character’s moment in the sun. Most of the actors play several characters, which is extra fun in a show filled with subterfuge and disguise. (It’s never too hard to sort out who’s who in that moment.)

This farcical comedy is hardly serious business, but it is a very entertaining way to pass an hour or two. Just remember to feed your meter during intermission – run-time pushes 2.5 hours plus intermission change.

Red Herring runs through July 30 at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine