‘Red Herring’ at Timber Lake. By Sue Langenberg It is already show number four at Timber Lake Playhouse, as the other three have come and gone with a dizzying tempo. The pace changes at bit from first musicals “Sunset Boulevard,” “Flight of the Lawn Chair Man” and “Sweet Charity” to a comical farce “Red Herring,” a first for the TLP stage that opened last night. Playwright Michael Hollinger wrote this play in 2000, roughly midcareer of his other award winning creations. His unusual background took his Bachelor of Music in viola performance further into the theatre where he perceives scenes as movements, characters as instruments and timing as a vital tempo of a comic farce. Tempo was indeed a special effect of this comedy, as guest director Derek Bertelsen took six actors Katie Wesler, Dryden Meints, Julia Mitchell, Andrew Harth, Kelsey Andres and Brandon Ford through the explosive paces, marvelous body language, surprise effects and versatile acting. For the record, there is no literal species of a red herring, but rather a kipper that has been strongly smoked red for a pungent odor designed to throw off the real trail scent, thus diverting attention from the real source. The phrase has been an object of lore and embraced as such throughout the ages. So the title, “Red Herring,” is most fitting for this farce as it takes the viewer down every fox hole available with a setting in the ’50s to complicate the simple act of love and marriage between three unlikely couples. The satire pokes fun at the lightweight days of “I Like Ike” and “I Love Lucy,” where innocence paralleled the advent of the H-bomb and McCarthy paranoia politics of “Better dead than Red” and the scary “commies” that may be under your bed. The setting couldn’t help but spark much opening night TLP retro dialogue straight off as much of the audience can literally remember these funky times. Funky, for sure, as character Roman Catholic Lynn McCarthy by most hysterically effective Mitchell is the daughter of the controversial senator who is in love with, (who else?) a Jewish Atheist Communist spy by strong presence Harth. The lies and spy rings thicken with the hysterical relationship between Maggie Pelletier by convincing Wesler and Frank Keller by Meints who falls off his wagon about love and betrayal. And mistaken identities continue as Mrs. Kravitz by Andres whose hosiery falls further down in each scene and Andrei Borchevsky by Ford who is a mute at times and accomplishing an impressive acrobatic feat. Director Bertelsen of last season’s screwball comedy “Love, Sex and the IRS” took “Red Herring” to full throttle with seamless vignettes that included action in front of two doors during scene changes which can sometimes be awkward breaks in the movement. While this action was not part of the original script, TLP artistic director Jim Beaudry noted that in theatres where such changes can happen faster, these actions are unnecessary. Whatever the logistics, this door business was most effective. Having only six actors in two acts of racy ado proved to be a major feat as costume changes into numerous other characters made much of the action offstage as perilous as on. Thus the action onstage was merely the tip of the iceberg, and focused so well that one would hardly imagine potential chaos beneath; very professional and indeed commendable for all involved including costume designers Tate Ellis and Katy Freeman, stage manager Mary-Catherine Mikalyunas and any small army of aides available in the wings. Must-laugh-at farce “Red Herring” continues tonight (Friday) and runs through Saturday July 23. at Timber Lake Playhouse. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday show times at 7:30 p.m., Sunday July 17 showtime at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. The Mt. Carroll boonies are a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or boxoffice@timberlakeplayhouse.org for tickets, group rates and more information.