The four-person cast makes the show a real hoot.
By L. CROW
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," now playing at New Castle Playhouse, is hysterically funny. Not the kind of funny that makes your eyes water and jaw hurt, but the kind where you feel a constant giggle jiggle in your stomach, with frequent outbursts of guffaw.
The masterful script was written by Neil Simon, but it is the extraordinary cast that gave it life. Everything is fairly simple: set, costumes, lighting, and a cast of just four, performed in NCP's intimate Annex, with the audience seated in chairs around tables. But it is the way the three women portray these misfit characters, and their interaction with a very confused Barney that makes this play a real hoot.
The plot is simple: Barney Cashman, played by Brian Lee, is a 47-year old seafood restaurateur who wants to have an affair. He thinks. The women, all from different walks of life, with very different personalities have several things in common. They are all unreal. Obnoxious. Unlikable. And really, really irritating.
Act one begins with Elaine Navazio, played by Kali Davies, meeting Barney at his mother's apartment, who is gone two days a week. Elaine is the only one who actually comes there expecting sex. She doesn't want a relationship, just sex. She is intimidating, sarcastic, insulting. She criticizes Barney for driving a Buick and always wearing a brown suit, and wants to know why he keeps smelling his hands. She drinks a whole bottle of Scotch, and screams for a cigarette. She openly brags about having other affairs and admits she has a short attention span where men are concerned. She is cold, flippant, and doesn't care about anyone or anything.
A nut case
Act two, enter Bobbi Michele, played by Bergen Giordani Reamer. She is a pot-smoking hippy who thinks she is an actress, but is really a nut case. She talks nonstop, and has a voice that can curl teeth and make hair stand on end. She giggles at everything she says. She has an endless string of stories of men who tried to take advantage of her and sleeps with a female Nazi vocal teacher. She doesn't have a clue that Barney invited her up to have an affair.
Act three introduces his wife's friend Jeanette Fisher, played by Stephanie Holt. They have been family friends for 12 years. Barney is sure this one is safe.
Jeanette is depressed. Her husband is having an affair. So she pops pills, swallowing them by holding her nose and rubbing her throat. Getting a glass of water would take too long. She carries a box of file cards in her purse, which she clutches with an iron grip, with statistics on how many people take pills for depression, and how many have committed adultery. She wails and whines and thinks there is no good in humanity.
But it is here that a moment of poignancy arrives. The one thread of sanity running through this play is Barney. Through his encounter with these three bizarre women, he finally comes to terms with what he is seeking. He loves his wife, and is basically a happy person. He thought if he could have just one affair, he would have a beautiful moment to remember for the rest of his life, and it would break his pattern for just once. When he finally realizes what he wants, it's what he's already got.
This play is highly recommended. It runs through Sept. 4.