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Last of the Red Hot Lovers – MBT Summer Rep in the Walton Theatre

Hot Hot Hot by Marla Bronstein
Classic Neil Simon at his best is presented by The MBT Summer Rep’s performance of Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
Walbeck plays Barney Cashman, the poster child for all schlubs. 47 year old Barney owns a fish restaurant, and except for 15 minutes with a 44 year old hooker when he was 18, is lamenting the fact that in the middle of the sexual revolution, the only woman he has ever had sex with is Thelma, his wife of 23 years.
I had seen the publicity photos, and yet had to see for myself. Local icon Sean Walbeck wearing a tie (three ties) the correct way. Sigh. Miracles do happen.
We watch Barney enthusiastically, incessantly, frustratingly painfully, and unsuccessfully attempt to change this status. Using his mother’s apartment, he has a few hours to “get-er-done” before his mother gets home from work at 5pm.
First we meet Elaine Navazio, played by Seattle’s Imogen Love, a brash, whiskey slugging redhead with a smoker’s cough that could choke a horse. Barney gets to first base, drawing blood in the process and practically breaking a hip.
A second attempt is months later with a different girl, Barney thinks he’s going to score with Bobbi Michele, performed by local Shelby Windom, a pot smoking wanna be actress he picked up in the park. When he gets too stoned to round the bases, they end up doing no more than singing pop songs and primal screaming before the evening ends.
A few more months of screwing up courage, and Jeannette Fisher appears at the door, played by Portland’s Kim Bogus. Jeanette happens to be a friend of Thelma`s who is trying to get back at her husband for cheating. Jeanette’s deadpan delivery demanding that Barney identify at least three people who are decent, loving and kind, made my stomach ache from laughing.
As is expected by Simon, Barney delivers the best straight lines to the women, each of whom was completely different yet equally strong in their performance and hit every mark with a one two punch.
Walbeck is funniest at his physical comedy…whether it’s trying to get the smell of fish off his fingers or being stoned to the point of experiencing primal scream therapy. Every cast member had their time to cause the audience to roar with laughter.
Director Ken Michels used every inch of the stage as set in the round to his advantage. Directing a director (Walbeck) can be a challenge, yet Michels never breaks a sweat.
Barney`s mother apparently never taught her son to not jump on the furniture. The set design was perfectly reminiscent of my grandmother’s apartment in the late 60’s which she, too, kept decorated as if it were the 40’s. I was a bit thrown by the Bloomingdale’s Little Brown Bag which didn’t actually appear in the store until 1973, a few years after the play’s 1969 setting.
My compliments to the lighting and sound designers, who kept a careful eye on the actors as they opened and shut window blinds and rang doorbells.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays:Jul 16th, 19th, 22nd, 25th, 31st, Aug 6th, 9th, 7:30PM, Aug 3rd, 3:00PM
Venue: Walton Theatre
Price: Tickets $25.00 adults, $12.50 students w/ valid i.d. plus applicable fees. Group discounts available – call (360) 734-6080