'Red Hot Lovers' fails to ignite flames of passion Tepid acting mars production

September 17, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

The Other Little Theatre, a troupe in residence at the Annapolis Naval Station Theater, has kicked off its third season with "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers", the Neil Simon play that chronicles Barney Cashman's misadventures into the world of marital infidelity.

Barney is the successful proprietor of a nice seafood restaurant who has a nice wife, a nice family and nagging sense that life's passing him by. "Life is not only very kind to me; it's gone out of its way to ignore me," he says.

So Barney seeks to confront his mid-life crisis via the tried-and-true method of adultery and, fortunately for the audience, winds up choosing three lulus as his potential partners.

There's Elaine Navazio, the hard living, hard loving sexual predator from New Jersey. Then there's Bobbi Michelle, the flower-childish aspiring actress who is as restless as a willow in a windstorm. Barney's final encounter is with his neighbor and friend, Jeanette Fisher, a bitter woman whose libidinous vitriol has been piqued by her own husband's fall off the monogamy wagon.

This production's strongest aspect is Steve LaRoche's performance as the hapless Lothario. His Barney is basically an affable, vulnerable fellow who just isn't cut out for hedonism. His frustrations are brought out beautifully. Mr. LaRoche's comic energy comes out in many admirable ways, not the least of which is his expressive face, which is hilariously panicked in Act I when approached by Elaine and wonderfully indignant in Act III when Barney confronts Jeanette's all-consuming pessimism.

Unfortunately, the women are not as impressive. While each of the actresses possesses obvious talent, none is exceptionally funny which, in a Neil Simon show, is a real problem.

Elaine Navazio, played by Kathy Warthan, comes at us crisply and petulant but with no real earthiness or ethnic New Jersey pizazz. Jeanette's bitterness can actually be pretty funny, but in this production, Jeanette, portrayed by Janet Whalen-Dunning, seems drugged up and bordering on catatonia, which, not surprisingly, cuts down on the yuks. Bobbi Michelle, played by Amy Mumma, talks fast and looks cute, but virtually all the laughs in her scene come courtesy of Barney.

In sum, while there is much to enjoy, this production of "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" suffers the same fate as Barney Cashman: the women just don't spark any flames.

"The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" will run Fridays and Saturdays through September. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7. Information: 267-3580.

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