‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers’ at Winneshiek.
By Sue Langenberg

Winneshiek Players presented a three day run of Neil Simon’s introspective comedy, “Last of the Red Hot Lovers.” Directed by Vicki Hooper, the three acts are a retro energy of the late ’60s and how the sexual revolution took one middle-aged married man by storm.
The play is a characteristic Simon creation that immediately takes the audience into another world of ’60s music for lovers including Burt Bacharach and a little Dionne Warwick nostalgia thrown in. Hooper notes that the classic themes of the sexual revolution then seem to resonate especially with those who were there and perhaps asking of themselves the same questions now about relationships.
Main character Barney Cushman worries that he’ll be left behind in a fast-changing world of loosening morality. After many years of a hum-drum marriage and little experience with women otherwise, he is determined that he will be slick and have an affair. Using his mother’s rather fussbudget and perfectly clean apartment, he prepares himself for a wild experience.
With each potential rendezvous, he stumbles through his own morality and learns much about how women tick. More importantly, he learns about himself.
That’s where the fun begins. He discovers right away that his first choice, scotch-drinking, cigarette smoking hussy Elaine Navazio is completely out of his league. He rather flunks this interaction as she pushes onward with her flippant attitude toward men and seemingly cold approach against his desire for romance and sensitivity.
Still determined to spruce up his life, he then comes upon his second choice starry-eyed Bobbi Michele, a pot-smoking and unpredictable youth who tells wild stories and bursts into song without warning.
Third choice Jeanette Fisher has her own revolution going on with her depression and endless “Look Magazine” statistics about how terrible the world is. Convinced of gloom and doom, she never relaxes but rather clutches her purse like she clutches her personal darkness.
This is where the genius of a Neil Simon play sneaks up on the audience. Main character Barney begins as a prudish stiff but gradually becomes slicker at each failed attempt. Each woman presents a delightful contrast to some aspect of Barney so the dialogue as it stands alone explores the depth of exactly how the sexual revolution affected everyone; thus the action progresses from hussy versus the prude, the wild child versus Barney getting wilder and, finally, the prude versus a more relaxed but frustrated Barney.
In a play that casts only four characters to carry the entire action, the degree of difficulty increases several fold. Scott Wootan as Barney was an outstanding strength with his conservative typecast and long stretches of believable dialogue. Jenna Bain as starry-eyed Bobbi was a most plausible dingbat and Lynn Jones with much stage experience played a marvelously complicated and depressing housewife. With a sudden change in cast, Hooper stepped into the role of hussy Elaine at hardly a moment’s notice. The show goes on, however, as the country’s oldest continuous community theatre has much professionalism to present.