In our modern world of Ashley Madison and swiping right, Neil Simon’s 1969 comedy The Last of the Red Hot Lovers may be a bit of an anachronism. For the theatre makers of the Lovebird Artists Collective though, it is not only a vehicle for female actors to showcase their talents, it still has something to say to audiences today.
“As a female actor this show offered not only one but three fabulous roles for women, all of which feature sustained scenes with strong narrative arcs,” says Nicola Rollett who plays Jeanette Fisher in the upcoming production.
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers tells the story of 47-year old Barney Cushman who, bored with his life, wakes up one day and looks to join the sexual revolution of the 1960s. His attempt to spice up his life is seen through three unsuccessful trysts with a trio of very different women.
“While some may think that the show is dated because it is from the sixties, human relationships are the same as they ever were,” says director Ian Farthing.
Farthing goes onto make a correlation between Simon’s story and Vancouver’s reputation for being cold, where finding love, or even friendship, can be difficult.
“There is so much talk in Vancouver about searching for connection,” he says. “The play addresses that by asking what it is to make a connection and what it is to love.”
For co-producer Alexis Kellum Creer, it is also about realizing that what we have may just be worth re-discovering.
“There are so many points in our lives when we want to just break out of something that becomes a pattern,” says Kellum Creer. “Even if that brings us back to a deeper realisation that what we had may not have been so bad, and helped us grow, it is something we can learn from. It brings us full circle.”
Besides, says Farthing, isn’t looking for love and looking to be loved part of the human experience, regardless of time? “That resonance hasn’t changed over the centuries, finding that sense of connection around us,” he says.
First opening on Broadway in 1969 and running for 706 performances, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers never did see a revival on or off Broadway. While it continues to be performed in theatres all over North America, Rollett doesn’t think the play gets the respect that it deserves.
“I think the time has come for this play,” says Rollett. “It not only talks of that human experience that we all crave, it also does it in a very funny way.”
Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Ave, Vancouver) from February 23 – March 6. Tickets are available online.