Feeling nostalgic? If you’re missing those bad hairdos and baggy blue suits of 1969, when naughty was a matinee and a whispered “marijuana,” stop into the Walnut Street Theatre for a dose of vintage. Last of the Red Hot Lovers is vintage Neil Simon—the playwright who may be the world’s most prolific purveyor of comic nostalgia (Lost in Yonkers, Plaza Suite, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Laughter on the 23rd Floor etc etc etc) is pleasing audiences with a vintage cast
Scott Greer, a past master of comic timing who never disappoints, plays Barney Cashman, the would-be red hot lover. Longing to put some sexual excitement—as well as “something beautiful” into his mundane married life, Barney, tries— and fails—with three subsequent women in his mother’s apartment, vacant for the afternoon. (Don’t forget the coasters under the scotch glasses.)
First up: the superb Grace Gonglewski as flashy Elaine who has plenty of experience in assignations (a vintage word). When she complains of a cough, Barney asks if she’s tried sleeping with a vaporizer; her reply: “Don’t worry, I get around to everyone.”
Another week, another woman, this time a “kook he met in the park.” Jessica Bedford plays Bobbi, a non-stop talking flower child with a squeaky voice and an endless supply of stories about bizarre encounters with men.
Finally we see Barney has broken out of the blue suit mold—a daring tweed jacket! Susan Riley Stevens plays Jeanette, a friend of Barney’s wife. She is chronically depressed, full of despair, and torments Barney with philosophical questions about the shortage of “decent, loving and gentle” people in the world. It’s not too hard to guess who one of them is; this is Neil Simon, who is, after all, king of comedy, and comedy, as we know, is about happy endings.
All this is snappily directed by Jennifer Childs who happens to know a thing or two about comedy and comic timing herself: she runs 1812 Productions, the all-comedy theater company, whose new show, Broads, a show about funny women, opens next month and promises more vintage fun.
[Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street] January 10-February 5, 2023; walnutstreettheatre.org