The Department of Visual & Performing Arts presents: Red Herring

Playwright Michael Hollinger wrote “Red Herring” for six actors to play 18 roles so this week's premier of the play at the Rogers Center for the Arts will challenge not only the backstage crew's ability to change sets and lighting quickly but the quick-change skills of the thespians themselves.

“In short, there are three love stories, a murder mystery and a nuclear espionage all rolled into one,” said the Rev. Rick Piatt, O.S.A who is directing the play. “As the playwright put it, Red Herring’s about quote, ‘marriage and other explosive devices’ unquote.”

Red Herring is a departure from recent productions by the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

“I tend to do theater pieces that are dark and have a political edge,” Piatt said. “It was time for a comedy.”

The play involves a character named Maggie who’s a Boston police detective played by Lissette Schum, dating an FBI agent named Frank who’s played by Ian McNeice. They are working on separate cases that eventually intertwine.

Cast and crew members are spending the final days and hours before this weekend’s premier of Red Herring at the Rogers Center building final pieces for the sets and checking lighting.

They held a tech rehearsal with the 12- to 15-member stage crew to work out sound, lighting and costume issues Sunday. The play’s lighting is designed by Evan Kelly who’s the technical director for the Rogers Center. He teaches theatrical design and basic stage craft.

Since the play is a farce, Hollinger doesn’t like elaborate sets so Piatt designed the backdrops in a comic strip fashion in the ilk of Dick Tracy or Brenda Starr, Piatt said.

Josh Canner is a junior from Andover majoring in theater with a minor in communications, who’s playing four roles in the play.

“There are four different accents for four different characters,” he said. “It took a lot of time to practice.”

The play has a timeless message that love can conquer over all obstacles, he said.

Moriah Goldblatt, a sophomore from Winthrop with a dual major in theater and communications is playing two roles as well as working on the set construction and public relations. She designed the advertising posters.

Her character Lynn McCarthy is the daughter of infamous U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy who falls in love with a communist spy. The character is a classic bad-girl who never gets caught, Goldblatt said.

“I love this play,” she said. “I think what I like most about it is the comedy only works because it’s truthful to the characters.”

Schum, a junior from Cortland Manor, N.Y. is a sports medicine major with a minor in theater who plays the challenging role of Maggie, a woman with a tough exterior and hidden vulnerabilities.

“The tough part for me is her vulnerability,” Schum said.

The play is scheduled to run Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m.; and Feb. 14 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. A St. Valentine’s Day brunch and pre-show dinner are available for the Feb. 14 showing. For more information call 978-837-5355.

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