Review: “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers” at Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Last of the Red Hot Lovers, directed by Jessica Stone at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Three brave acts, three failed seductions: Brooks Ashmanskas and (l to r) Susie Essman, Leslie Bibb and Heidi Schreck. (photo: T Charles Erickson)

Last of the Red Hot Lovers, directed by Jessica Stone at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Three brave acts, three failed seductions: Brooks Ashmanskas and (l to r) Susie Essman, Leslie Bibb and Heidi Schreck. (photo: T Charles Erickson)

The best reason to go see a Neil Simon comedy is to laugh and have a good time. And in the hands of director Jessica Stone you will never, ever see a more successful play for sending audiences into irreversible paroxysms of laughter than Last of the Red Hot Lovers (LOTRHL). Convulsive laughter is one of the by-products of encounters with Neil Simon, America’s most successful playwright, though there is more to his work than that.

There have been few playwrights who have written such damned good parts for women in theatre. The comedy he finds in relationships between men and women comes from a place in Simon’s own life where he feels men and women are evenly matched, as they are in LOTRHL.

Pity poor Barney Cushman, (Brooks Ashmanskas) who spends three acts trying to woo three more-or-less willing partners into bed, only to find that as a lover, he is barely lukewarm. Barney has issues. With his hands which smell of fish from opening oysters and clams at the restaurant he owns, with fidelity to his wife of 25 years, and with any real knowledge of how to pick a woman for a tryst at his mother’s apartment in the East Thirties in Manhattan.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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