"It's the year 1952. The Cold War is in [its] infancy, families are watching I Love Lucy on television, Ike & Dick are on the ballot, and Joe McCarthy is questioning communists in the Senate. And in Boston Harbor, a dead body is pulled into Pier 17, a mystery that slowly pulls three couples apart."
Rebecca Schilling describes it best there in her director's note. Red Herring is a seafaring, detective comedy that presents a vast eighteen roles, each with unique dialects and traits, and a cast of six seasoned actors and actresses to cover it all.
In Lake Country Playhouse's intimate theatre, audiences step onstage on the way to seating before any actor has made an appearance... and boy, is it a stunning one. The dim dock lights give the wooden platform an ambient glow. Then, the three dimensional melts into the 2D as the dock meets the scenic painting. The two are practically indistinguishable. LCP President Bob Hurd's set design with LCP VP Breanne Brennan's lighting design create an eerie serenity onstage, all set against Joe Raymon's nuanced scenic art.
At the opposite side of the stage is a stylized bedroom. Yet again, the differences between what is physically presented and what is painted are far and few between. The Monsters Inc reminiscent wall pattern sets audiences right in the midst of the 50s. Again, this design trio's work is nothing short of fantastic.
To have any cast member be a stand-out would be a great disservice to this hugely collaborative piece. In this production, each of the six players has a style and quality of their own, but together, they form an unbreakable ensemble. Cayla Anderson treads the boards as Boston Detective Maggie Pelletier. While she plays a hardened woman of the law, Anderson is a particular delight when she softens and shows her feminine sensibilities, especially in scenes with love interest Frank Keller (John Reilly).
Stephanie Nilsen and Dustin Nolan primarily play lovers Lynn McCarthy and James Appel, among numerous other roles. Nilsen brings all-American refinery to the daughter of the infamous red-scaring Wisconsinite, and Nolan's James Appel may or may not be teaming up with our Cold War enemies... Inevitably, hilarity ensues.
Rebecca Richards and Kelly Vance are impossible to ignore while onstage. Both veterans of the stage, the duo reigns particular mastery of the many accents, physicalities, and characters demanded of them. With Richards' exuberant expressions and Vance's dry deliveries, the pair are the foundation of the cast, and the root of the strongest scenes.
Red Herring is an absolute riot. Schilling's direction, with this talented cast and inspired technical team, turns the Hartland stage into the Boston docks with ease. Don't let this be the show that got away! The show runs through Sunday, October 21st.