Neil Simon’s “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers” heats up the Ivoryton Playhouse
By Tony Schillaci and Don Church
It’s a given that all men are going to have a mid-life crisis, but it’s seldom as funny as depicted in prolific comedy playwright Neil Simon’s “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.”
This Ivoryton Playhouse production (not a touring company) has a first-rate cast, including three members of Actors Equity Association (AEA) who gave memorable performances. The one non-Equity, player gave a comedic turn that is as good as it gets on stage. Beverley J. Taylor’s delightful, fully realized charactization of the street worldly, hard-drinking, and gorgous Elaine Navazio didn’t miss a single opportunity with a line or piece of business to get a laugh or a touching reaction from the audience. Ms. Taylor has played Nancy in “Oliver,” Nellie in “South Pacific,” Anna in “The King & I,” among many other leads in drama and musicals. Today, her career is in theater management. This is a rare treat to again see her in a leading role on stage.
(Beverley’s appearance on stage should encourage other non-Equity players to go to auditions at Connecticut theaters that are able to cast them by the terms of special contracts with AEA.)
To round out this exceptional ensemble cast is R. Bruce Connelly who is at the heart of this timeless comedy playing middle-aged Barney Cashman. He’s a nice guy who married his high school sweetheart, yet wants to have one hot extra-marital toss-in-the-hay as a change of pace from his long and faithful marriage. On three afternoons, he goes through three distinctly different women in his mother’s apartment while she’s at work. As always with most Neil Simon comedies, it’s well-structured, inhabited with three-dimensional comedic characters and chock-full of wise and witty situations and dialog.
R. Bruce won our praise last year as Max Bialystock in Ivoryton’s outstanding production of “The Producers.” In this play he again proves that he’s star-quality character actor. He’s on the stage from curtain up to final curtain and never breaks the loveable but bungling character he fleshed out and that involves a lot of action that he fills with marvelous bits of business and perfect comedic timing.
As the actor who’s on stage all the time, he’s the one to set the pace for the evening and he does that expertly in the latter part of the play rather than sooner, but it’s still well worth the price of admission to see him perform. The pace of the whole play might be better served if on his first and second entrances to his mother’s apartment he did the required costume and prop business more broadly and quickly than as the director instructed.
Katherine Ailsa Hubbard grew up back stage and out front at the Ivoryton Playhouse and obviously absorbed a great deal of fine-tuned technique from the actors in performance. She has been getting invaluable experience on stage, film and TV. This play is the return to her theatrical roots as she triumphs as Bobbi Michele, an actress/good-time young woman whose emotions are as lighting fast as the ups and downs of a yoyo. She holds her own in this company of talented and charismatic actors.
The final woman of Barney Cashman’s lust for a mid-life fling is the uptight, moralistic, Jeanette Fisher, his wife’s best friend, deftly played by Bonnie Black. She moves the audience to laugh, cry, cheer and jeer her as she twists and turns over the desperate mess that is her wonderfully flawed character.
This vintage comedy is a life-lesson for all you guys out there in the real world and the women who have to either stand by their man until he realizes a good and caring wife is a joy forever, or just let him feel the sting of sexual rejection because he ain’t what he used to be the sexual attraction department. We highly recommend it for adult audiences.
If you go...
WHAT & WHEN
“Last of the Red Hot Lovers”
Through June 24, 2012
WHERE: Ivoryton Playhouse,
103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
Adults $40, seniors 65 +, $35
Children, through 12, $15
BY PHONE: 860.767.7318
Copyright 2012. Critics On The Aisle. All rights reserved.
Published by examiner.com, June 15, 2012. To be published by Metroline News Magazine, June 18, 2012, including Facebook, and in The Resident June 20, 2012, including Facebook.