NEIL SIMON'S Last of the Red Hot Lovers may not be one of the legend's most well-known plays, but it's certainly one that's had a life and legacy of its own next to some of his more mainstream productions. Theaters have been staging it for decades, and Collective Face Theatre Ensemble is next in line.
Collective Face’s founder David I.L. Poole tells Connect that he looks at the show as a “morality play,” explaining that it centers around a middle-aged man who feels left out of the sexual revolution taking place at the time in the 1960s.
“He has led a very normal life - he runs a fish restaurant, has a wife and three kids, and everything is normal and wonderful,” Poole says. “Except that he feels like he hasn’t done anything exciting in his life.”
The man, Barney Cashman — played by local theatre vet Les Taylor — decides to try setting up three affairs with different women in order to feel that sense of excitement.
“He meets a woman named Elaine at his restaurant, who’s been flirting with him,” he explains.
“His mother’s apartment is on the east side of New York in a high rise. She’s gone during the day, so he starts to use the apartment as a place to have these hookups. We meet him at the apartment, and Elaine is the first affair that he tries to have. She’s done this many times, but it’s a disaster.”
Cashman’s nervousness gets the best of him, causing the first affair to fall apart. The others go equally as poorly, with the man realizing in the end that all he ever needed and wanted was his wife.
“He realizes that the spice of life that he wanted was already there. All he had to do was spice up his marriage,” Poole says. “So it’s a morality play, and it’s hysterically funny.”
The production wraps up Collective Face’s current season, which is based around the theme of ruptured romances.
“The idea was to do shows that reflected our human experiences with romantic notions. How we go through pain with suffering. All the plays this year are about seeking fulfillment,” Poole explains. “This play is a farcical of a morality play, where we learn that what we’re seeking is right there at home.”
The show is also being done in part as a tribute to Simon, who died in 2018.
“A lot of people are doing Neil Simon right now. There are three companies right now who are doing Neil Simon,” Poole says.
“I thought it was the perfect way to honor him, since we haven’t done a Neil Simon since maybe 2010 or 2011. This one, I felt, fit with our theme and was a good way to honor him. And, of course, it’s classic Neil Simon.”