Fringe's overdone 'A Thing for Redheads' falls flat
By Rachel Weiner
Monday, July 19, 2010
Known for his witty takes on classic literature and the theater business, John Morogiello ("Engaging Shaw," "The Matchmaker's Guide to Controlling the Elements") tries to go serious with "A Thing for Redheads." This tragicomic take on the modern creative-industrial complex, playing at Warehouse through Saturday, is neither very funny nor very sad.
Stanley (Jim Gagne) toils away in obscurity at the publishing company run by his brother, Peter (Ian Blackwell Rogers). Stanley has all the editing talent and none of the people skills; he walks with a limp and grunts at every visitor. Peter is a charmer who lacks all ethics and talent. Not only morally but literally sterile, his only goal is to get written into someone else's work so future generations will know he existed. So when a teen pop star, Jessie (Charlene V. Smith), approaches the pair to write a quickie autobiography, Peter jumps at the chance to seduce her and make a quick buck.
Of course, he already has a girlfriend -- the aging Bobbie (Lori Boyd), a Pulitzer Prize winner who can't finish her next book for fear of losing the cad. Despite her supposed insights into the human condition, Bobbie is obsessed with this shallow freak and oblivious to the fact that Stanley is in love with her. (Stanley, Jessie and Bobbie all have red hair -- hence the title.)
The actors respond to the playwright's caricatures by overdoing it; only Boyd manages to give her pathetic, unlikable character some dignity. Most of the one-liners fall flat; many involve the crazy things kids supposedly say these days (OMG! Emoticons!). Only in one scene does the pathos come together with comic genius -- Jessie's performance of the inane song she wrote to preserve Peter for posterity. It's a hint of what could have been.