By Lynnie Ford
For the Enterprise
As a theatre reviewer, you soon discovers that Neil Simon fare is a favorite of both audiences and directors. Consequently you often see the same shows, in different venues, over and over again.
So, needless to say, when scheduled to see the Edge of the World Theatre’s production of Simon’s “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers”… again, I was not exactly ecstatic. Was I pleasantly surprised! Barney Cashman, “hero” of the show, might not be red hot in the love department, but the show is sizzling, steamy fun with non-stop laughs featuring a four-member cast that delivers uniquely passionate and talented, performances — each with an outrageous flavor all its own.
Barney Cashman (Rick Wright) is a 47-year old fish restaurant owner who married his high school sweetheart 23 years ago. Now it’s 1970 and Barney is ready to join the sexual revolution, or at least take up arms. There are however, a few minor issues — Barney’s hands smell like fish, his romantic getaway is his mother’s apartment, he has little to no dating skills and he’s so uptight he almost squeaks when he walks. Add to that the worst taste possible in potential partners and you get the picture — the embers die before the fire begins.
Over a period of ten months, Barney brings three different women to the apartment — Elaine (Christina Buchen), an experienced philanderer and customer at the restaurant, Bobbi Michelle (Sara Trowbridge) a young budding actress Barney meets in the park who left any trace of sanity on the park bench, and Jeanette (Melanie Calderwood), Barney’s wife’s best friend who is in the midst of a deep depression because her husband cheated on her.
Elaine is Barney’s first attempt at infidelity. Tall and thin, the hard-drinking, worldly Elaine wants to get right down to business. Unfortunately, Barney’s been out of business for so long, it’s a bit overwhelming. Wright’s Barney, in between smelling his Old Spice soaked fish-smelling hands, is hilarious dodging her advances with nervous ramblings. Buchan is his perfect match, cold and sarcastic as she eyes his every strange move. Eventually she storms out not mad, just bored.
Elaine however, is just a prelude to the wild ride Barney takes on his second date. It is now September, nine-months later and Barney’s improved his game. Extra bottle of liquor, plenty of cigarettes and no suit jacket, he’s good-to go. And then Bobbi Michelle arrives… from another planet.
The non-stop talking, pot-smoking, wild child has a hard time tracking her own life let alone allowing Barney a moment. It’s one big drama, from the 15 minute obscene phone call she just couldn’t put down, to her ex-boyfriend with sharpened teeth, to the politician that stole her dog (“the police are in on it”) — she laughs, she snorts, she panics, she screams. It’s only when her and Barney share a joint that they finally find a common bond — singing “What the World Needs Now” on the floor together. Both Trowbridge and Wright are outstanding, showcasing Simon’s wonderful one-liners and delivering the funniest scene of the show.
Barney’s final attempt one month later is equally disastrous. This time Barney ends up providing mental therapy rather than “physical therapy” as he consoles the depressed Jeannette. Looking him straight in the eye Jeannette tells him, “I don’t find you physically attractive… you do know that don’t you.” Barney’s only thought, “Boy, can I pick’em.”
It’s these outstanding performances that make the show fly, for a very entertaining evening of red hot laughter and fun.