Last of the Red Hot Lovers -- A Smooth Exchange
Bob and Karen Isaacs
When you’re the Executive and Artistic Director of a small theater you have to be prepared for any eventuality. And so Jacqueline Hubbard, the head honcho at Ivoryton Playhouse, believing in the motto, “the show must go on,” jumped smoothly into one-third of the female parts in Neil Simon’s 1969 comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and carried off the substitution with ease.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers is Simon’s take on the sexual revolution that Barney Cashman desperately wants to join. Cashman, the married owner of a fish restaurant -- a tidbit that Simon uses for a bit of comedy -- captured with appropriate anxiety and naivete by the fine acting of Ivoryton regular R.Bruce Connelly, is the fulcrum of this vehicle as he prepares the atmosphere for what turns out to be a series of liaisons. Part of the comedy is the location of Cushman’s adventure -- get ready for this -- his mother’s apartment, created by scenic designer Rachel Reynolds in the East Thirties in New York City.
The opening scene pits Cashman against the sexpot Elaine -- who’s there for a couple of drinks and a good time. As Elaine, Beverly J. Taylor deals with the situation as part of her everyday activity which includes action with other women’s husbands. The interaction between the naive Cashman and the experienced Elaine provides a comfortable basis for comedy as Cashman stumbles blindly about winding up with a failed seduction.
You get the idea that this introduction into the sexual revolution is not necessarily going to be easy for Cashman as the second scene -- same locale -- with a fruitcake of an actress, Bobbi, becomes more than Cashman can handle. Bobbi is so fixated on her attempt to break into theater that she could play the scene entirely without Cashman. Bobbi is offered up by Katherine Ailsa Hubbard as a ditsy woman who will do anything to get a job; in fact the entire attempt at seduction is lost in her principal focus.
After intermission, we realize that Cashman hasn’t lost his urge and offers a more comfortable figure -- you’ll get the changes as Cashman converts to more and more relaxed costumes and Connelly presents an equally more relaxed Cashman. It’s here that Cashman meets his Waterloo as he attempts to seduce Jeanette, the wife of his best friend. It’s here too that we see the virtuosity and talent of Jacqueline Hubbard who stepped into the role at the last minute. She plays the moralist and, sadly for Cashman, puts him back on the path of righteousness.
In the original 1969 production, James Coco as Cashman, Linda Lavin as Elaine and director Robert Moore received Tony Award nominations. The talented Ivoryton company develops all the laughs in this somewhat dated Neil Simon play. But like any Simon play, the laughs are there.
You will have a good time at Last of the Red Hot Lovers playing through June 24 at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton, For tickets and information call 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers June 20, 2012 and online at Zip06.com.