Theatre: Simon's sexual revolution never simple

By Paul Simei-Barton

Ham-fisted bid to try life on the wild side makes for wicked satire.

Peter Feeney's klutzy character tries to stave off a mid-life crisis with an extra-marital affair. Photo / Supplied
Peter Feeney's klutzy character tries to stave off a mid-life crisis with an extra-marital affair. Photo / Supplied

Tadpole Productions' commitment to bringing professional theatre to the Takapuna Pumphouse comes with the bonus of an unusual selection of plays.

It is surprising that Neil Simon's vast repertoire is hardly ever staged in New Zealand. He is regarded as America's most successful playwright and his work will be familiar to local audiences through TV or movie adaptations of Broadway hits such as The Odd Couple and Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers is a Tony Award-winning play from 1969 in which he serves up an ironic view of the sexual revolution as seen through the eyes of a respectable restaurateur who is trying to stave off a mid-life crisis by having a once-in-a-lifetime stab at marital infidelity.

His ham-fisted attempts to get a taste of life on the wild side take place in his mother's spotlessly maintained apartment and must be scheduled to fit a brief window of opportunity when his mother is out doing charity work.

The setup is loaded with comic potential and Simon's razor-sharp writing delivers a wickedly funny satire on the 60s dream of liberation through carefree hedonism.

Peter Feeney's finely judged performance as the klutzy protagonist elicits considerable sympathy and his encounters with three very different women provide an instructive journey of self-discovery.

Joy Buckle brings a pointedly sarcastic edge to her portrayal of a seen-it-all New York broad who is perfectly at ease with the objectification of a purely physical relationship.

Bodelle de Ronde captures the kooky self-obsession of a drug-addled actress, and Anna Stillaman wins plenty of laughs as a Valium-popping manic depressive who is unable to throw off her guilt-ridden inhibitions or her bleakly nihilistic attitude.

The superb script, talented cast and snappy direction make for a highly entertaining show.


Theatre

What: Last of the Red Hot Lovers

Where and when: The Pumphouse Theatre until October 27

- NZ Herald

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