‘Red Hot’ and Rebooted
Fall in love again with a Neil Simon classic, at Monmouth U’s renovated Pollak Theatre
January 31, 2017
Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” February 16, 2017.
Presented inside the Pollak Theatre, the 7:30 p.m. show brings the assembled talents of Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre — America’s longest established stage company, founded in 1808 — to the flagship auditorium of the Monmouth campus. It’s a welcome engagement by the troupe that brought Eugene O’Neill’s “Moon for the Misbegotten” to Manasquan’s Algonquin Theatre last year — and with the Pollak’s newly enlarged performance area, improved sight lines and nearly 700 new seats, the stage is set for a fresh and funny look at a classic comedy from the era of “Mad Men” mores and manners.
The playwright who created “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple” had entered the prime of his career when “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” opened on Broadway in 1969, during a time of fast-changing attitudes toward sex, gender roles and monogamy. The so-called “Sexual Revolution” is very much on the mind of Barney Cashman, the play’s central character and a middle-aged, married man who yearns to get in touch with his long-suppressed “swinger” side.
That Barney’s adventures in adultery are doomed to comical complication goes without saying, as his trysts with a trio of potential conquests — hard-drinking free spirit Elaine, addled actress Bobbi, and moralizing Jeannette — form the basis of an intimately scaled favorite that’s long been a mainstay of the nation’s dinner theaters and community playhouses (and which hit the silver screen in a 1972 release that starred Alan Arkin).
The Walnut Street production of “Lovers” reclaims “Doc” Simon’s Tony-nominated script from amateur-hour exile, in a professional staging under the direction of Adam Immerwahr. It’s a tour stop for the show that plays at the company’s Independence Studio On 3 between January 10 and February 5, and it stars Walnut Street regular Fran Prisco as Barney, with fellow Equity pro Karen Peakes appearing as all three of the “other” women in Barney’s life.
A time capsule from an era when Americans of all ages obsessed over which side of the cultural chasm they were on, Simon’s play reinforces the fact that nothing, not even “free love,” comes without a (frequently comical) cost. In the expert hands of Walnut Street Theatre, it’s a show that invites the audience to “fall in love all over again” with “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.”
Tickets for the February 16, 2017 presentation of “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” are priced at $35 and $50, with reservations available through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts.
Tickets for other upcoming Performing Arts events — including Koresh Dance (February 18, 2017) and Sweet Honey in the Rock (February 24, 2017) — are also on sale now.