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The Mill at Sonning - Last of the Red Hot Lovers

17th March to 7th May 2016.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Vintage American comedy

Last of the Red Hot Lovers, at The Mill at Sonning until May 7

This Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park) play was first presented on Broadway in 1969, where it had a successful run.

This was the swinging 60s and Barney Cashman, played as a staid New York fish restaurant owner by Stuart Fox – forever washing his hands and sniffing his fingers – wants to get in on the sexual revolution before it passes him by.

He arranges a seduction set-up in his mother's NYC apartment… because a hotel room would be too sordid. Cue three acts with three young women and a rather timid man who is ready for anything but not really prepared for nymphomaniac Elaine, played by Laura Doddington with real zest and over-the-top effervescence.

Well, if he thought she was a revelation, it is nothing to would-be actress Bobbi, played by Dido D'Alangurton. This one subjects him to wild stories of a lover who wanted to do things to her that she just can't bear to repeat but when pressed by Barney says: "Well I only did one or two." And so defensive is she about sharing an apartment with a lesbian friend that she says: "Honestly, I sleep so far away from her in the bed, I'd have to take a taxi to reach her!"

Then she tells him the marks on her wrists are where she was watering plants on the window ledge and the window fell on her arms. Some of Simon's one-liners don't seem all that funny until you think about them afterwards, and this play is packed with them.

Back to Barney and he meets up with Jeanette, his best friend's wife (Gloria Donna Tudd), and she is so neurotic, she is trying to escape almost before she gets a foot inside the apartment. Stuart Fox maintains an impressive mild-mannered character throughout and is very well supported by the women.

There is a surprise at the end for those who haven't spotted it before but I'm not going to give anything away here. This is a fast-moving, funny play, with unobtrusive but effective direction by Robin Herford and a clean, uncluttered set, designed by Edward Lipscomb.