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Better ‘Red’ than … well, almost anything

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photographs by Barry Wisdom /


The Big Idea Theatre’s deliciously seasoned and attractively plated "Red Herring" comes with an ample serving of tongue-in-cheek that’s sandwiched between big, crusty slices of wry, as a trio of Cold War-era couples find themselves in assorted pickles involving the H-bomb and the "L" word – all precipitated when someone dials "M" for murder.

It’s an irresistible dish of cutting-edge camp that’s available for a limited time. In fact, those who are hankerin’ for a satisfying meal of tasty theater should secure a seat before "Red Herring" closes Saturday, Sept. 15.

Ostensibly an homage to film noir, "Red Herring" gratefully deviates from that often-laconic storytelling style thanks to playwright Michael Hollinger’s fast, frenetic and fitfully funny script that jumps from locale to locale with Big Idea’s spot-on cast playing multiple roles to high-pitched perfection.

Those who enjoy lengthy, drawn-out scenes such as those featured in drawing-room comedies of days gone by, should be warned that climbing aboard Big Idea’s production of "Red Herring" might consider it a ride on the disorienting express. My advice is to take a few Dramamine and just enjoy the ride.

Hollinger’s bouillabaisse of a fish story has something for everyone – just like a big, ol’ Cheesecake Factory menu. Set in the 1950s, there are a three couples in various states of coupling: Maggie (Joelle Robertson) is a police detective embroiled in a mysterious murder case that she’s investigating alongside her marriage-minded FBI paramour Frank (Justin L. Chapman); Lynn (Kelly Cullity) is a sweet, young gal – and the daughter of commie-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy – looking forward to having her fella James (Caleb Salmon) put on a ring on it; and Mrs. Kravitz (Katie Chapman) is a nosy neighbor who discovers passion with Russian national Andrei Borchevsky (Matthew Udall).

Also in the mix: Jouni Kirjola and Elizabeth Holzman who expertly provide comic relief and in a variety of roles.

There are secrets aplenty involving stolen nuclear information, national allegiances and affairs of the heart.

Director Benjamin T. Ismail’s extremely talented cast delivers on all emotional levels. You want adventure? You got it. Love romance? It’s here times three. Intrigue? Yep. Drama? Check!


WHAT: The Big Idea Theatre production of MIchael Hollinger’s "Red Herring"

WHEN: Aug. 24 through Sept. 15, 2012, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays

WHERE: Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, Calif.

WHO: Directed by Benjamin T. Ismail; featuring Justin L Chapman (Frank Keller), Katie Chapman (Mrs. Kravitz), Jouni Kirjola (Male Swing), Kelly Cullity (Lynn McCarthy), Elizabeth Holzman (Female Swing), Joelle Robertson (Maggie Pelletier), Caleb Salmon, Matthew Udall (Andrei Borchevsky), and Hilary Wells (Lynn McCarthy understudy)

TICKETS: $10-$15; call (916) 960-3036, or go online at www.bigideatheatre.tix.com

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