In a nutshell, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers is about a restless restaurateur who wants to add a little spice to his life by having an affair (actually a hat trick of dalliances), but gets a little more, or less, than he bargained for, naturally.
After all it’s Neil Simon, the playwright who relies on wit and wordplay while occasionally musing about the ironies and frustrations of life, and who wraps it up in a tidy three-act play that manages to tickle the funny bone while giving enough food for thought to satisfy most theatregoers’ hunger for entertainment.
And thanks to some strong performances, Powerhouse Theatre’s Lovers delivers the goods.
The first word in the play isn’t uttered for several minutes, but a simple, functional, appropriately designed set allows Barney Cashman, played by Colin Carney, to set the stage for the Dating Game with a twist.
You see Barney would never appear on the old ‘60s-era game show because, well No. 1, he’s married, and, No. 2, he’s the furthest thing from the hip dudes that strutted their stuff on that stage, and, No. 3, definitely no cameras please.
However, like the show, he doesn’t really know the women behind the front door of his mother’s apartment each time, at least not as well as he thought he did.
Carney as Cashman has much of the weight of the play on his shoulders, but gets stronger as the night progresses and effectively wins over the affections of the audience, if not his would-be conquests.
His in-way-over-his-head encounter with the “very attractive” and worldly Elaine Navazio is a lot of fun and, despite a couple of opening-night glitches, keeps the play moving and the laughs coming as it becomes ever more evident that Cashman’s attempts at connecting, well, are being disconnected.
Patty Garrett pulls off the ready-to-go Navazio with style and a fiery frustration with life, and Cashman, that shines throughout the scene.
However, if the first act may have started a little slowly, the tempo picks up at the onset of the second act thanks to the human dynamo known as Bobbi Michele.
While Cashman has grown and is better prepared for date No. 2, again he’s got no idea what to make of Bobbi.
Bev Steeves is wonderful as the energetic, bubbly, very excitable but lovable Bobbi. Not many lines are left available for Cashman due to the whirlwind Bobbi, but there’s a vicarious excitement that’s enjoyed by all who get to witness this bombshell’s life stories.
And the scene ends on a laugh-out-loud high note.
Date No. 3, also called the second scene of Act Two, brings things down to earth more than just a little, and just when Cashman is ironically hitting his stride in dealing with his inhibitions.
Beverley Peacock, as Jeanette Fisher, is also very good as the straight-laced, uptight friend of the family who somehow makes her way to the apartment.
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers offers plenty of smiles and chuckles and the odd outright laugh, not to mention enough musings on modern morality to chew on to satisfy most people’s tastes.
And if you’re anywhere near approaching, or leaving, the age of a potential mid-life crisis (which could be anytime, really), then you’ll thoroughly relate to and enjoy the characters as they wing their way through it.
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers continues at Powerhouse Theatre for a matinee today at 2 p.m. as well as a nightly run from Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.
— Glenn Mitchell is the managing editor of The Morning Star.