You may have heard that the recessive gene for red hair will be gone by the end of the century. Not true: The rumor appeared to originate with a company testing for genetic ancestry, followed up by research from a certain Oxford Hair Foundation, which turned out to be backed by Procter & Gamble, a manufacturer of hair products.
That foundation is actually mentioned in the aggressively mediocre new musical “R.R.R.E.D.,” which imagines a future where those with fiery manes must battle for their survival so that they and the descendants of Ed Sheeran and Jessica Chastain have a fighting chance.
We are at a meeting of a secret activist group led by Victoria O’Hara (Katie Thompson) and GJ Crockett (Matt Loehr), whose name is also its motto: Real Redheaded Revolutionary Evolutionary Defiance. Ostracized by “the Many” (cue a still of the peroxided kids from the film “Children of the Damned”), our underground cell tries to fend off extermination by pushing for ever more procreation.
The meeting is structured, so to speak, around a series of “instructional tutorial musical lessons” — because people supposedly learn better when they are entertained. Adam Jackman, Ms. Thompson and Patrick Livingston wrote the book, which lands squarely in daffy “Urinetown” territory, minus that hit show’s craft and humor. Rodney Bush, the music director, provides solo keyboard accompaniment to Ms. Thompson’s songs, reinforcing the impression that we are at a cabaret evening run amok.
I found myself flummoxed. Our heroes look as if they are combating an unholy alliance of brunettes and blondes hellbent on eradicating them, but wait a minute: Isn’t the gene just disappearing on its own?
I suppose the answer could be both, but Andy Sandberg’s directing doesn’t help clarify the incoherent storytelling. (Mr. Sandberg and choreographer Shea Sullivan are also involved in the musical “Neurosis,” which is playing in repertory with this show at the DR2 Theater.)
The most surprising aspect of the evening is its bilious undertone. Victoria, for example, never misses an opportunity to cut off or belittle her comrade in resistance, though the source of her irritation is unclear. At least the very funny Mr. Loehr makes the most of the situation as the overeager, tireless GJ, who has never met a song he cannot oversell.
And the numbers do need overselling. The nadir comes when the pair call for “testimonials” from the audience and one Stephanie Hicks (Marissa Rosen) belts a ditty peppered with such lines as “I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat” and, for good measure, “I’m not crazy/Just fat and lazy.” The 1980s have called, and they want their jokes back.
A second testimonial is delivered by a different guest star at each performance. Last Tuesday evening, Christopher Sieber, a Tony nominee for “Shrek the Musical” and “Spamalot,” gamely made the best of the situation. Shortly thereafter the show descended into chaotic agitation, then ended.
Even after surviving “R.R.R.E.D.,” redheads should be O.K.: They are likely to endure long enough to be decimated by global warming, just like everybody else.