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Neil Simon’s Classic Sex Comedy, Performed (and Reset) in San Miguel

neil-simon

By Benton Crowell

Having an illicit affair was roundly celebrated in American theater during the ’60s and ’70s. Undaunted by the risk of STDs, fictional adulterers reflected the wave of a sexual revolution. In the typical setup, the hero-geek male seeks redemption from a humdrum, middle-class existence in the seductive arms of a free-spirited lover. Bestsellers of the day, such as Open Marriage, coauthored by husband and wife psychologists George and Nena O’Neill, radicalized the norms of how couples across America swapped partners and broke the bounds of traditional monogamy.

During this restive time in American pop history, Neil Simon wrote Last of the Red Hot Lovers, one of the hits of the 1969 Broadway season and a play that signaled a new maturity in Simon’s development as a dramatist. Clive Barnes, reviewing the play for The New York Times, said Simon was “witty as ever,” but exhibited a newfound “humanity in his humor, so that you can love [the play] as well as laugh at it.” Last of the Red Hot Lovers will fun for eight performances at the San Miguel Playhouse, Avenida Independencia 82, from October 11 through 22, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are 300 and 250 pesos and can be purchased online at sanmiguelplayhouse.com or at the Galeria Ensueños, 57A Mesones (corner of Reloj), between 10:30am and 2pm every day except Tuesdays and Sundays.

Simon’s hero is would-be adulterer Barney Cashman. Ever faithful to Thelma, his spotless wife of twenty-three years, but yearning to join the sexual revolution, Cashman is a minnow swimming in a shark tank. And he’s eaten alive. Nevertheless, in the end, the hero’s journey returns Barney to his humdrum starting point, but not without an ironic twist of Simon’s comedic dagger. Simon probes underneath the surface of quick one-liners to create a protagonist of moral complexity and depth, worthy of consideration as an archetype of modern man overwhelmed in the face of middle-class affluence and radical social change.

The new production stars three Latin-American actors—Christian Baumgartner, Gina Acosta, and Ivette Pizarro—along with Crystal Calderoni, most recently seen in the comedy Call Backs. It will also feature live music provided by Tziganko Collectivo, featuring vocalist Elsa Sommarström. The director, Benton Crowell, has moved the play to present-day San Miguel and changed the hapless protagonist’s name to Bernardo Cash. The play will be performed in English with projected supertitles in Spanish.

Sr. Cash, a successful restaurant owner, arranges his affairs in his mother’s casita on the rooftop patio. Three very different women pose as his sexual foils—expat middle-class Latina women all on the verge of their own nervous breakdowns. These desperados converge (the first assignation takes place one December, then two more the following August and September) while Bernardo’s mother is conveniently away for the afternoon. What transpires occupies the two hours’ traffic on our stage.

 

Theater

Last of the Red Hot Lovers

San Miguel Playhouse, Avenida Independencia 82

October 11‒22

Wed, Fri, and Sat, 7pm

Sun, 3pm

300 pesos/250 pesos

 

 

 

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