This V-Day, take your Valentine to see a comedic murder-mystery romance complete with espionage, war and love at the Northwest premiere of Michael Hollinger’s Red Herring, hitting the stage at Artists Repertory Theatre this month. “Companies arm-wrestle [for] the rights to plays, and we fought to get this one,” said the theater’s marketing director, Nicole Lane.
This V-Day, take your Valentine to see a comedic murder-mystery romance complete with espionage, war and love at the Northwest premiere of Michael Hollinger’s Red Herring, hitting the stage at Artists Repertory Theatre this month.
“Companies arm-wrestle [for] the rights to plays, and we fought to get this one,” said the theater’s marketing director, Nicole Lane.
Red Herring is the Artists Repertory debut of director Christopher Liam Moore and set designer Richard Hay, who have both worked extensively for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Moore did four seasons at the festival, and Hay has designed 55 seasons of Shakespeare so far.
Many of the actors in Red Herring are seasoned residents of Artists Repertory.
“The actors in the play are working together beautifully to heighten the comedy in the script, to bring it to life,” Lane said.
In Hollinger’s genre-bending play, three couples dance around the plot: Six characters stagger through a murder case, all seeking love, as Cold War paranoia looms. Lane encourages Portland State students to see the performance.
Val Landrum plays the straight character in the show, Maggie Pelletier.
“She’s a pretty tough Boston detective in 1952,” Landrum said. Landrum described Maggie Pelletier as smart but ashamed of her personal desire to unravel a particualar unsolved case, which interferes with her current relationship with a federal agent.
“She’s got some secrets in her past, and she’s kind of obsessed with this one crime that needs to be solved because she has a personal investment,” Landrum said.
Moore has had the cast on their feet since day one. Landrum said some directors start by talking about the script or watching movies to get a feel for expectations, but Moore put everyone to work immediately.
“We blocked the first scenes by the second rehearsal, within three hours,” Landrum said of Moore’s direction. “By our eighth rehearsal, we were doing full runs.”
Landrum has appeared in plays such as Circle Mirror Transformation, The Cherry Orchard and A Streetcar Named Desire. She also teaches at the Oregon Children’s Theatre.
“If I could do anything better than this, I would have done it by now,” Landrum said.
Jokes zoom through the Red Herring, and Landrum compared it to NBC’s much-beloved and recently completed 30 Rock.
“It’s a perfect Valentine’s Day show,” Landrum said. “I’ve watched it a bunch of times, and I never get bored.”
Actor Michael Mendelson performs as five different characters in the play, and not only do they have different costumes, they all have different accents—British, Russian, Boston, Cape Cod.
“We work with a dialectician on the show, and she came in with all the material we needed,” Mendelson said.
Though each character needs equal attention, Mendelson said he favors Andrei Borchevsky, the Russian.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, to Sunday, March 17
Wednesday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Artists Repertory Theatre’s Alder Stage
1516 SW Alder St.
$25 general admission, $20 for students
Tickets are available at the Artists Repertory Box Office or 503-241-1278
“I think Andrei is very interesting, but I don’t want to give anything away,” Mendelson said. “I want people to come and see what the intrigue is all about.”
According to Mendelson, every character is looking for love, even Andrei. Almost all the characters are tracking Maggie Pelletier—the straight-shooter mentioned earlier—and her desire to find her soul mate.
“It’s a love story, but it also revolves around international espionage, “Mendelson said.
Spectators can get behind-the-scenes insight at the post-show discussions after the 2 p.m. matinee performances on Feb. 17 and 24 and March 3, 6 and 10.
“The audience is able to ask questions about the show,” Mendelson said. “It’s great to hear audiences comment about the show, good or bad. It allows for real interactive theater.”
“I think it’s a great show for PSU,” Lane said. “It’s funny, accessible and not heavy-handed.”