Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Last of The Red Hot Lovers, Neil Simon, HIT Productions May 11, 2004

Last of The Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon 
HIT Productions

Beckett Theatre to May 11, Karralyka, Ringwood May 12 & 13,  Clocktower Moonee Ponds May 14 & 15, South Morang May 24, Nunawading, July 12. until July 12, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert Beckett Theatre on May 1, 2004

There is probably nothing more excruciating to watch than a middle-aged man looking for an affair. This is the topic of Neil Simon's play, Last of The Red Hot Lovers.

Max Gillies plays Barney Cashman, an awkward, conservative, sexually dissatisfied and hungry New Yorker, desperately seeking his Aphrodite.

The title is, of course, ironic. There is nothing hot about these fumbled attempts at extra-marital infidelity. Nor is there anything remotely romantic about his fingers smelling of the clams he shucks daily for his seafood restaurant. He makes three vain attempts at secret liaisons in his mother's rosy pink bedsitter.- nothing sexy there either.

Gillies is engaging as Barney, playing him as a gauche, clumsy but keen seducer. Each liaison sees him more confident, if not more skilful, as the clandestine lover. Having been married and faithful to Thelma for twenty-nine years, Barney is astonished by each of the three women he invites for a two hour tryst before his Mom arrives home from charity work.

Jackie Weaver plays all three love interests with gusto. Her choices are bold which suits the characters. Number one, Elaine, is a brassy, experienced deceiver who has cravings for food, cigarettes and secret, anonymous sexual encounters.

Elaine is just too forward and risque for Barney's romantic notions - and there's also the matter of her repulsive, hacking smoker's cough. Bobby is number two. She is a ditzy, Californian wannabe actress to whom Barney lends money to help her pay an accompanist for an audition.

Weaver makes Bobby cute and endearing as well as a manic dope head with paranoid tendencies. She hilariously and sporadically breaks into old songs or hysterical laughter. The final woman is Jeanette, a depressive, guilt-ridden friend of Barney and Thelma who suffers, she says, from melancholia.

Judith Cobb's lollypop pink set highlights the cheesy suburban nature of these three encounters. Jennifer Hagan directs the play with an eye for the gag and a focus on the recognition factor for the audience.

The outcome of the story makes it a modern morality tale. Barney is a good man who sought some excitement in his humdrum life but finally turns back to his wife. C'est la vie.

LOOK FOR:  The transformations of Jackie Weaver.

By Kate Herbert

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