Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Sue Nedar
It’s no secret that I’m a Neil Simon fan, but in all honesty, I’ve never been a big fan of Simon’s “Last Of The Red Hot Lovers.” That is … until I saw it at The Newport Playhouse! I have to say, Red Hot Lovers is among my two or three favorite offerings from the Playhouse. Ever. No Kidding!!
Under the direction of Tony Annicone, this show is literally, a laugh a minute. No… really. A freaking laugh a minute! Tony has cast these characters perfectly; each one distinct, and, well… FUNNY!
This is the story of sad sack, Barney Cashman – the Fish Restaurant guy, who’s experiencing a mid-life crisis, and three women who are candidates for his first attempt at a tryst. Imagine this; A fifty-something year old schlump, who can’t stop smelling his fingers, tries to have a romp in his mother’s 1940’s decorated apartment. Imagine further; a hot, brassy, gum-snapping bombshell, a bohemian, artsie, free spirit (who may or may not be nuts) and a frumpy, sad, pigeon-toed housewife whose husband has boldly announced he’s having an affair. These are Barney’s choices for an affair! Hysterical, right? You bet, Right!
In the lead role as Barney Cashman is Richard Bagley. First of all, let me tip my hat to Mr. Bagley. He never leaves the stage, never stops talking, and never once faltered with his line delivery. Kudos to you sir! Richard is so well cast as Cashman, that you almost want to jump on that stage and console him. His physical comedy is on point, and his timing is perfect. Bagley is the perfect schlump; from his nervous first entrance, to his bold and almost arrogant final scene, you feel for him, while laughing at the antics he has to deal with from this array of crazy women. In the end, you want to applaud Cashman for realizing that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.
In scene one, we meet tryst number one – Elaine Navazio, played to a tee by Gerrianne Genga. Listen, there’s a fine line between a brassy bombshell, and a dope. Genga is no dope, and she has this role down perfectly. From the moment she walked on stage, she had me laughing out loud (something I rarely do.) I have seldom seen someone so innately comedic. Alternating between coyly suggestive, and perfectly abrasive, Genga was born to play Elaine. Neil Simon would stand and applaud her!
In scene two, Cashman brings Bobbi Michele home to his mom’s apartment. Bobbi Michele is expertly played by the adorable Katherine Coolidge. At first, we want to love Bobbi Michele, but as the scene unfolds, we begin to worry for Barney. Bobbi’s certifiably NUTS! Katherine is so convincing, that if I didn’t know her, I’d probably consider donating to a psychiatric wellness fund for her. No really! Without giving away the entire scene, let me just say that Katherine’s transition from loopy actress wannabe, to paranoid nutbag is priceless.
In the final scene, we meet Jeanette Fisher, played by long-time Newport Playhouse funny lady Sandra Nicastro. Jeanette is frumpy, neurotic, unhappy, and inconsolable. You’d think a character written this way would be anything but funny, but you’d be wrong! Nicastro, once again shows us that physical comedy is her forte. Trust me, this character’s lines are not particularly funny – but in the hands of Nicastro, with her facial expressions, her body language, and her expertise in timing and delivery, they are HYSTERICAL! Jeanette and that damn pocketbook!
A word or two about the direction. Listen, I’ve seen this play many times previously. To be honest, I’ve never liked it. To be further honest, I’ve never laughed through it. No, really. But, THIS production had me laughing out loud. And I don’t laugh out loud. This show is funny for two reasons. 1, because Tony Annicone knows where the laughs should be, and directs his cast to make them happen, and 2, because he’s got a freaking funny cast! Good job, Mr. Annicone!
So, take it from someone who doesn’t sugarcoat it – GO SEE “LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS” Run. Don’t walk. And while you’re at it, enjoy a scrumptious buffet, and an entertaining cabaret afterward. Tell them, Sue said it’s worth every single penny!