Theatre Mirror Reviews - "LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Kevin Thomas


Reviewed by Kevin Thomas

“Last of The Red Hot Lovers” by Neil Simon is now playing at the Newport Playhouse and it is a comic masterpiece. “Last of…” is one of Simons earliest works filled with nuance and symbolism, sometimes lost in his later works. A comedy in three acts “Last of” tells the story of Barney Cashman (Rick Bagley) as a simple man just looking for a moment of connection, but he just can’t seem to get it right. The first act of “Last of…” alone has the two most popular comedic monologues of all time, frequently used in auditions and theater classes around the world. Simon sets a high bar for himself with this work, weaving the sexual promiscuity of the 1960’s with the neurotic and paranoid central male character that would become a staple of many of his later works. What I love most about “Last of…” is the clear symbolism, each act has it’s own vice to pair with the female character and also with a stage of life. Tony Annicone deftly directs his four actors through three different afternoons in the life of Barney Cashman, played by Rick Bagley. Bagley has the greatest challenge of all in this production as he never leaves the stage and must go through a tremendous range of emotions. From the moment he walks on stage he delivers with tremendous stage presence and energy. Annicone does a good job setting up Bagley as a paranoid and nervous man with a smartly directed opening scene that seemed out a silent movie, a scene that is echoed at the beginning of each act to boisterous laughter each time.

Cashman’s first attempt to find that perfect one night stand involves the wild Elaine Navazio, played to comedic perfection by Gerrianne Genga. Genga plays Navazio with sharp timing, quick wit and the big persona of a Real Housewife of New Jersey. In a Leopard Print Dress and tight, high pony tail Genga commands the stage every minute she is on it, one that intimidates the nervous and awkward Barney Cashman. This entire act had the audience rolling with some of the most boisterous laughter I have ever experienced in the theater, and the play was just getting started. Bagleys second attempt at romance involves Bobbi Mitchell, played with tremendous energy by Katherine Coolidge. Bobbi Mitchell is the true child of the 60’s in this work, a naive and free spirited hipped actress with a bit of an anxiety problem. Coolidge does a great job handling Bobbi’s emotional rollercoaster of a scene, with a dynamic physicality handled with ease. Bagley’s is a hoot in the final moments of the scene, after trying a puff of Bobbi’s “herbal remedy” for anxiety sends him reeling!

The Last encounter for the lowly Barney Cashman involves Jeanette Fisher, played by Playhouse Veteran Sandra Nicastro. The Role of Fisher is a difficult one for any actress, written to be very one dimensional. However, Nicastro plays the character with depth, range and heart. The heart Nicastro brings to the character really helps solidify the emotional heart to the play, in what is quite an introspective final act. “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” at the Newport Playhouse is a comedy that is not to be missed, running till November 20th. Whatever your vice is to deal with the stress and anxiety of the tumultuous world we live in I can promise you “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” delivers the most powerful one of all-laughter.

"Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (2 to 20 November)
Newport Playhouse, 102 Connell Highway, Newport, RI
1(401)848-7529 or

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide