LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS
Theatre at Baddow at the Parish Hall
Barney Cashman is a creature of habit. But after twenty-three years wedded to childhood sweetheart Thelma, he's beginning to feel that life is passing him by. And his mother's flat is the setting for three awkward attempts to clamber aboard the infidelity bandwagon …
Neil Simon's beautifully written comedy is given an impressive outing by Theatre at Baddow, and if the décor and the costumes sometimes fail to convince, there are no such issues with the four splendid actors in Jo Gent's polished production.
Jim Crozier is the lover. His performance is impeccably constructed, with fine physical comedy as well as pitch-perfect delivery in a long, demanding role. From his first pathetic attempts at conversation, through his "Is that all there is?" monologue and his pot-fuelled duet, to his masterly handling of his third-time-unlucky melancholic, he gives a confident, compelling reading of the character.
The three women who ring his mother's door-chimes are a varied bunch, all amusingly, and often touchingly, drawn. Beth Crozier is the cool and witty, cold and flippant Elaine, gasping for a smoke and swigging J&B. Helena Jeavons is the fabulously flaky fantasist, wearing a terrible wig and carrying handcuffs and a red feather boa in her bag. And Nicola Marsland is outstanding as Thelma's depressed friend, exuding negative vibes and clinging to her pocket book and her sadly jaundiced view of society.
Though there is pathos as well as farce, this is a comedy, so Barney trades his blue suit for leisure wear, before realising that the lover he'd really like to seduce on his mother's sofa is his own loving, decent wife.