CAT offers up humourous staging of Last of the Red Hot Lovers

“Life has gone out of its way to ignore me,” says sad-sack Barney Cashman in Central Alberta Theatre’s engaging production of Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

“Life has gone out of its way to ignore me,” says sad-sack Barney Cashman in Central Alberta Theatre’s engaging production of Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Saddled with three kids, a devoted but “not vivacious” wife named Thelma, and a fish restaurant, Barney thinks a spot of adultery might jolt his average life out of the doldrums.

Of course, Barney, played by Curtis Closson, gets more than he bargained for in this well-done version of Neil Simon’s classic 1969 comedy, which opened Thursday at the Nickle Studio, upstairs at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

And we’re not talking about sex here.

The first woman who Barney tries to get into the sack — or rather onto the couch at his mom’s house while his mother’s away volunteering — is Elaine Navazio, hilariously played by Nicole Orr.

Elaine, a brassy blonde who’s a repeat customer at Barney’s seafood restaurant, has clearly been around the block a few times. When Barney delays cutting to the chase and instead tries to engage Elaine in conversation, she smells his inexperience (as well as the lingering odour of oysters on his hands) and her eye rolling begins.

Barney is soon overpowered by Elaine’s cynical personality — and the same can be said for Closson, who initially comes close to being steamrollered by Orr’s strong performance.

Fortunately, Closson becomes surer of his lines as the play progresses, and his Barney becomes more reactive and less emotionally flat.

By the second act, the comedy directed by Albertus Koett really picks up steam. And much credit goes to Sarah Hemphill’s brilliant portrayal of Bobbi Michele, the second woman Barney tries to have an affair with at his mother’s house.

Bobbi is an unemployed nightclub singer who’s prone to bursting into song and telling paranoid stories about being stalked and having her lhasa apso dog-napped by a mysterious Mr. H.

Hemphill’s subtle body language and superb comic timing makes her outlandish Bobbi completely believable. And Closson’s bewildered reactions to this bizarreness turn Barney into a more dimensional character.

A scene in which Bobbi lights up a joint and convinces the conservative restaurateur to inhale marijuana smoke is a highlight.

“I don’t feel my tongue,” says a woozy Barney, who soon comes to the panicky realization that Bobbi — who reportedly sleeps between leather sheets with a “Nazi” vocal coach — might actually be more crazy than kooky.

The problem with Barney’s third female visitor, Jeanette Fisher, is of a less volatile and more morose nature.

Jeanette, who’s a friend of Barney’s wife, Thelma, turns off her come-hither charm the minute she crosses the threshold of Barney’s mom’s place. She begins asking such romance-killing questions as, “You don’t think there are worse things than death?” and “What gives you the strength to go on?”

Barney spends what should be his whoopee time trying to talk Jeanette (who’s well played by Rachelle McComb) out of her disappointment in the human race, starting with her husband, Mel.

The thing that’s made Neil Simon’s sexual revolution comedy stand up over the past four decades is the playwright’s sharp insight into the human condition. Barney’s sense of the years passing him by is relatable to many people, and so is Jeanette’s disappointment in where life has taken her.

While most of the witty dialogue in Last of the Red Hot Lovers is geared to providing audience members with a good laugh, Simon also manages to squeeze some poignancy into this play before it’s over.

Both are great reasons to catch this entertaining CAT production before it winds up on April 27.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Marcus Golczyk, with Taco Monster, hands food to a customer during Food Truck Drive and Dash in the Westerner Park parking lot in Red Deer Friday afternoon. The drive-thru event will run every Thursday from 4-7 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through June. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff
Food Truck Fridays, Food Truck Drive and Dash return in Red Deer

Red Deerians are able to take in a drive-thru food truck experience… Continue reading

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault chairs a premiers virtual news conference as premiers John Horgan, B.C., Jason Kenney, Alberta, and Scott Moe, Saskatchewan, are seen onscreen, Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Several provinces bring in new restrictions as high COVID-19 case numbers persist

Several provinces are gearing up to tighten public health measures once again… Continue reading

Members of the RCAF take part in a Royal Canadian Air Force change of command ceremony in Ottawa on Friday, May 4, 2018. The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping Canada will open its doors to military pilots from other countries as it seeks to address a longstanding shortage of experienced aviators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
RCAF turns to foreign pilots to help with shortage as commercial aviators stay away

OTTAWA — The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping Canada will open… Continue reading

An arrivals and departures information screen is seen at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. The chief executive of Atlantic Canada's largest airport is hoping for COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers "sooner rather than later," as an added measure to combat the province's third wave of the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Halifax airport CEO hopes for more on-site COVID testing ‘sooner rather than later’

HALIFAX — The chief executive of Atlantic Canada’s largest airport is hoping… Continue reading

Shoppers wear mask as they shop at a nursery & garden shop on Mother's Day weekend during COVID-19 pandemic in Wilmette, Ill., Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tearful reunions mark second Mother’s Day under pandemic

Last Mother’s Day, they celebrated with bacon and eggs over FaceTime. This… Continue reading

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet, standing, watches the game during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 5-2. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Tocchet won’t return as coach of Coyotes after 4 seasons

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes and coach Rick Tocchet have mutually… Continue reading

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella shouts at an official after a fight between Columbus Blue Jackets' s Gavin Bayreuther and Florida Panthers' Sam Bennett during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, April 19, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Tortorella out after 6 years as Columbus Blue Jackets coach

COLUMBUS, Ohio — John Tortorella is out as coach of the Columbus… Continue reading

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada's vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel's approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

JASPER, Alta. — A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing… Continue reading

The smouldering remains of houses in Slave Lake, Alta., are seen in a May 16, 2011, file photo. The wildfire that is devastating large swaths of the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray comes just five years after another blaze destroyed 400 buildings and left 2,000 people homeless in Slave Lake, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ian Jackson
Ten years later: Five things to know about the Slave Lake wildfire

A wildfire burned about one-third of Slave Lake in northern Alberta in… Continue reading

Most Read