Monday, Oct. 25, 2010

Neil Simon Over Dinner: Last of the Red Hot Lovers in the Suburbs

Neil Simon Comedy At Home In Port Washington

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The late ‘60’s counter-cultural experimentation developed some compellingly interesting shows . . . at least, they sounded like compellingly interesting shows. I remember dibing into a college library in high school and reading weird stories about one group of actors in Chicago who were so obsessed with continuing their run of a political psychodrama that, even after they had been evicted from a performing space, they broke into the theatre every night just to finish the run of a show no one could see. If some of those old college texts were to be believed, it was a time when theatre didn’t just break down the fourth wall, it broke down the other three as well.

Somewhere amidst all of that edgy experimentation in the late ‘60’s, established theatre legend Neil Simon occasionally took glances over at the counter culture for the purposes of a laugh or two. His 1966 semi-political romantic comedy Star-Spangled Girl evidently left more than a few people scratching their heads.

A few years after Star-Spangled Girl  he tried something with an aspect of the then-contemporary counter-culture in The Last of the Red Hot Lovers. In it, a middle-aged married man attempts to get in on the late ‘60’s sexual revolution, gradually striking out in each of three attempts at adultery. Not exactly one of Simon’s greatest hits, the comedy’s original run lasted only 706 performances, or roughly three times longer than the original run of Star-Spangled Girl. A bit closer to Simon’s natural habitat, the comedy is standard light sitcom stuff from relatively early on in his 40-plus year playwrighting career. Though the debuted in New York, Simon’s many plays feel much more at home further away from urban centers as time passes. The classy, old sitcom flavor of a man who cut his teeth writing sitcom work for radio, Simon’s work feels more authentic in a place like Port Washington, for instance . . .

A few months after a rather charming local production of Star-Spangled Girl with the World’s Stage Theatre Company downtown, Memories Dinner Theatre in Port Washington stages a production of The Last of the Red Hot Lovers. The show opens this Friday.

Memories Dinner Theatre’s production of The Last of the Red Hot Lovers runs October 29th through November 7th.  For more information call 262-284-6850.

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