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Theater Review: ‘Last Of The Red Hot Lovers’



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The Ridgefield Theater Barn is offering up a Neil Simon classic, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, a sweet and funny take on the potential for boredom in long-term marriage.

Director Michael Ferrara has skillfully staged the three acts of duets, highlighting the adept physicality of each of the actors, which, along with their comedic prowess, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theater.

Barney Cashman, played by Duane Lanham, craves excitement. Finding himself at middle age, running the fish restaurant he inherited from his dad, and married to his high school sweetheart, he is in need of a heart-racing adventure, so he turns to other women. The unseen wife, Thelma, is apparently quite lovely, yet the smell of seafood on his fingertips and the lifelong habits that keep him secure are proving to be so mundane that Barney seeks out women he does not really know and invites them to his mother’s dowdy apartment for a fling, hoping to relieve his doldrums.

Divided into three acts, each finding the leading man in the company of an unusual woman, Barney comes to realize he should be careful what he wishes for. His first foray finds him in the clutches of sexy wildcat, Elaine Navazio (Paulette Layton). Nervously sniffing his fingertips for the scent of shellfish, Barney is flummoxed and overwhelmed.

In the park, Barney encounters Bobbi Michele (Kate Patton), a wild child with a sordid past. He issues her a proposal, and they meet at the apartment. Bobbi gleefully recounts her many relationship misadventures. A disturbed Barney and his afternoon delight find alternate ways to relax.

Following a suggestive after-dinner kitchen encounter, Barney invites the wife of a couple with whom he and Thelma socialize to the apartment. Thinking he is on solid ground with Jeanette Fisher (Linda Seay), a woman he has known for years, his plans are foiled once again. Jeanette is boiling over with angst, anger, and misery. Attempts to cajole her fail, and Barney is left to ponder what he really does want.

Each of the three women are wonderful in their roles. The sultry seductress, Elaine, is well-played by Paulette Layton. She renders her smart mouth and sexual freedom with aplomb. Kate Patton is adorable as the not-so-innocent and kooky Bobbi. The woeful Jeanette is very well-played by Linda Seay, who shows off some fabulous combat acumen.

The role of Barney requires a host of skills, endurance being just one of them, and is best portrayed by an actor with depth and broad range. Duane Lanham has all that and much more. He is nothing short of brilliant as Barney; this role could have been written for him.

This is a fun night of theater, and who doesn’t love that! Take dinner and drinks to The Ridgefield Theater Barn to catch Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Is Barney (Duane Lanham) seducing Elaine (Paulette Layton) or the other way around? Paulette Layton and Duane Lanham are in Last of the Red Hot Lovers, playing through September 28 at The Ridgefield Theater Barn. —Alicia Dempster photos
Seducing Jeanette (Linda Seay) is going to be a challenge for Barney (Duane Lanham) in Last of the Red Hot Lovers. —Alicia Dempster photo
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