by Samuel L. Leiter
R.R.R.E.D., one of the most annoying show titles for anyone who has to type it out, refers to the Redheaded Revolutionary Evolutionary Defiance, a secret society of revolutionaries from whom this broad, campy, musically patchy, and superficially funny Off-Broadway musical takes its name. A satire on identity politics, R.R.R.E.D. calls out for radical action to save the world’s maligned and dwindling titian-haired population.
When entering, each audience member gets a sticker printed with the name of a well-known stage or screen character (mine was Auntie Mame and my plus one’s was Mildred Pierce), and told not to reveal their real names. A day later, I’m still wondering why.
The premise of this flame-haired flameout is that we’re secretly attending a meeting of R.R.R.E.D., which initially hides its intentions by posing as a gardening meeting called “Victoria’s Secret Garden.” Running the event (and often asking for audience responses) is the redhead Victoria (“My Blood Bleeds Red”) O’Hara (Katie Thompson, who wrote the music and lyrics), and her assistant, the eager, gay, redheaded (at least when the right light hits it) GJ Crockett (Matt Loehr), constantly vamping and spotlight hogging. Both are talented but a revival of Life with Father would serve their crimson locks better.
In R.R.R.E.D., you see, redheads are an endangered species, forced to go underground or wear wigs to disguise their natural hair color. Statistics are cited to declare the projected extinction of red hair by 2100 (the so-called “extinction hoax”). Redheads thus band together at secret meetings like this not only to celebrate the beauty of redness but to promote the birth of more carrot tops: “Just have a lot of sex with redheaded people” says a song called “Rules.” Another, “As Long As It’s Red,” advocates the value of free love. Another calls for “Revenge” on those that would insult redheads for their fire-colored follicles.
Red, by the way, is oddly lacking in Charlie Corcoran’s simple set of a boarded up room and Michael McDonald’s costumes, which put the leads in black shirts and camo pants.
The redheads’ deadhead villains, of course, are the blondes (“What Good’s a Blonde, Anyway”) and brunettes, one of the former, played by a guest star (the wonderful Kate Rockwell [Mean Girls] when I attended) showing up to give a surprise (and, plot-wise, surprising) testimonial.
Two other testimonials are given, one by Stephanie Hicks (Marissa Rosen, the show’s standout), a pixie in a blonde wig, who’s abandoned her virginal proclivities for procreative promiscuity. She proudly declares the greatest thing she’ll ever do is “bring another of God’s Redheads through the crooked path of my uterus,” before lamenting in the amusing “Pregnant,” that “I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat.” Then there’s one from Craig (Kevin Zak), a gay guy whose long, crinkly hair looks almost as red as a banana (wigmaker, wigmaker, make him a better wig).
The doggedly goofy book, by Thompson, Adam Jackman, and Patrick Livingston is mostly plotless, randomly following the pattern of a bizarre political meeting, replete with educational musical numbers (thematically all over the place), interpersonal bickering and patter, testimonials, and comical projections (by Dan Scully).
With its cheesy look and single, upstage keyboardist, called Honkey Tonk (Rodney Bush), the show, at the DR2 Theatre, feels more Off-Off than Off Broadway. The over-sung songs, which run the gamut from pop to rock to gospel, are generic and forgettable. Andy Sandberg’s excessively emphatic direction and Shea Sullivan’s minimal choreography only make the lyrics’ banality and puerility (as in a big production number called “Procreation”) all the more obvious.
R.R.R.E.D. is a one-joke show that makes even its brief hour and 20 minutes feel stretched. I mean just how long can you watch something about hair-brained, redheaded revolutionaries without wanting to rip out your own hair (if you have any)?
R.R.R.E.D. Through October 21 at the DR2 Theatre (101 East 15th Street, between Union Square East and Irving Place). www.darylroththeatre.com
Photos by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade