Review by Carol Montana, photos provided by www.paulcowell.com.
The play is a comedy/love story/spy spoof/cold-war espionage thriller/murder mystery. What more could an audience member ask for? By the way, the playwright considers it a “fable about marriage.” It’s that, too, and oh, so much more.
Written by Michael Hollinger and directed by the multi-talented Producing Artistic Director of Shadowland, Brendan Burke, “Red Herring” tells the story of hard-as-nails detective Maggie, played by a brilliant Kathy McCafferty, who is hot on the trail of a killer she’s been chasing for seven years. Because she’s a woman, and because it’s 1952, she has to prove herself over and over so the guys on the force don’t overshadow her.
In the hysterical co-plots, Senator Joe McCarthy’s daughter, Lynn, becomes engaged to a Soviet spy, and a wacky Boston landlady takes the law into her own hands for the sake of love.
Accompanying Maggie in this free-for-all is David Mason who plays her boyfriend, FBI agent Frank. He also plays a priest and Major Hartwell, giving each character a distinct presence and a commanding performance.
Similar praise goes to the wonderful Jodie Lynne McClintock as: Mrs. Kravitz/Mrs. McCarthy/Mrs. Van Nostrand. Easily slipping into different accents and personas, McClintock delights as she bustles about the stage, frantically trying to keep the pieces of this farcical chess match moving in the right directions.
Elizabeth Ness plays the flighty, giggly Lynn McCarthy to perfection. With her blond curls bobbing as she giggles, she displays a naiveté that is silly in the extreme, only to be displaced by her ever-so-serious love for a Russian spy. And she also plays a clerk.
Kevin Sebastian plays no less than four characters including the aforementioned Russian spy. He’s confused, in love and wonderfully at ease in his portrayals.
While all the scenes are hilarious, a stand-out occurs when Sebastian and Ness speak on a phone, which, because they are in different countries, has a multi-second delay. The fact that they pull off this scene with ease, speaks volumes for their talent and Burke’s direction.
David Lenthall provides more hilarity as Andrei Borchevsky/Petey/Dr. Kasdan/Herbert. In one scene, Mrs. Kravitz is trying to hide Andrei’s Russian identity and tells Frank that Andrei is mute. What follows is fall-off-your-chair funny, as Lenthall invents his own sign language and Mrs. Kravitz translates. It’s like watching a 1950’s Japanese monster movie. Lenthall is truly a joy to watch.
And keep an eye peeled for the confessional scene for another round of non-stop laughter.
In addition to the marvelous cast, every single production element in “Red Herring” contributes to the show. The costumes by Holly Lewis Budd are not only true to the period, but decidedly helpful in distinguishing the 15-plus characters.
Sound design by Jeff Knapp includes some wonderful jazzy detective music between scenes, setting the mood and the time period very effectively.
And special mention to an often overlooked crew member, the Technical Director. In this capacity Drew Francis pulls all the above elements together, and includes a wonderful smoke machine to create foggy, mysterious nights just made for rendezvous with Russian spies. What fun!
And Francis also serves this fine production as Scenic Designer. The set in this case is a star of the show in its own right. Since the story takes place on a dock, multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, a bar, an FBI office, an airport, a bridal shop and countless other locations, Francis has created a multi-level, multi-element set that moves and becomes whatever is needed. Set pieces pull out from under or on top of the platform to become beds, a coffin, desks, a kitchen counter and so much more. Rarely does a set get put to such wonderful use. Bravo!
Adding to the efficiency of the set, are the marvelous and quick set changes accomplished by both cast and crew.
“Red Herring” was the winner of the Barrymore Award for outstanding new play in 2000. With its crisp pace, fine acting and outstanding technical elements, the Shadowland Theatre production of “Red Herring” deserves an award of its own.
“Red Herring” plays on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. through September 12. For further information call the Shadowland Theatre at 845-647-5511, or visit The Shadowland Theatre Web site.