Red Herring will lead you astray but keep you laughing promise both the writer and director.
Bill Adams of Oak Bay wrote the one-act play that appears at Langham Court Theatre as part of the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival this month.
Adams, who has in his life been a research biologist, house builder, graphic designer, advertising artist, teacher, painter – “It was hard to pin me down,” – decided it would be fun to write a comedy.
He was right.
“It was tremendous fun. I had a blast,” he said. “I appreciate absurdist comedy. Finding that absurd and unexpected comedic element in a story and in characters appeals to me.”
Comedy is a departure from his previous dramatic Fringe creations Liberty (he also portrayed the one-man show) and Foot and Mouth.
In Red Herring, the mysterious and gruesome murder of Svetlana Pavlyuchenkova requires the crime-solving skills of the forensic investigators from the Smithsonian, a gullible FBI agent and a rather dim Washington, DC cop. Along the way they run afoul of the Russian mafia, a belligerent lesbian model combat helicopter pilot and a bogus breast implant surgeon. Confounding their investigation are numerous red herrings and exploding body parts.
“It started out as an 80-page play and it’s been pared down to about 35 pages,” says director Chris Moss of Saanich. “The jokes are all still there. It really is hilarious.”
The two men have known each other for more than two decades on the Victoria theatre scene, where Adams has built multiple sets for shows Moss directed, or performed, but this is their first foray as a writer/director duo.
“Between the two of us we’ve managed to get a good balance of what he wants to say and how it’s portrayed on stage,” Moss said. “If we don’t like something, we just change it.”
The relationship helped them hone the one act show for ARTifact at Langham Court Theatre where it won a handful of awards including inclusion in the Fringe.
“It’s hard to get into the Fringe, there are hundreds of entries for a limited number of (productions),” Adams said of the lottery to get a venue in the festival. If ARTifact audience responses are any indication, Fringe-goers can expect an hour of laughs.
“It moves so quickly that someone in the audience is always laughing … It has exploding body parts and we do have a corpse in the opening,” Moss said.
The four experienced cast members Mitch Barnes, Ian Chaprin, Katya Delancey and Fran Patterson play 11 different roles and they all capably switch characters, costumes and accents with hilarious dexterity.
“There are 14 scenes and when we did it for ACTivate there was no downtime at all,” Moss said, describing an essentially bare stage. “They were able to carry the audience with them from one scene to another, making people believe they were these changing characters.”
Catch Red Herring at the Fringe in the Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Ct.
Red Herring performances in the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival
• Thursday, Aug. 21, 8:15 p.m.
• Friday, Aug. 22, 6:15 p.m.
•Saturday, Aug. 23, 8:30 p.m.
•Sunday, Aug. 24, 5 p.m.
•Wednesday, Aug. 27, 6:15 p.m.
•Saturday, Aug. 30, 8 p.m.
Looking forward to community theatre
Bill Adams anticipates good things for the new Oak Bay High theatre once the school is complete.
“I’ve acted in Oak Bay community theatre through the school. The school would cast non-students in roles where it was appropriate,” he explained.
“It was good for the students because they could then work with seasoned actors, to get a feel of how you’re supposed to do it.”
He sees groups already showing interested in community use of the school theatre.
“It’s a good experience all around for people involved,” he said. “There’s a lot of groups that are very interested in the possibility of using this community venue.”