TARPON SPRINGS — Summer is still weeks away, but the heat arrives tonight with Neil Simon's romantic romp Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
The three-act comedy launches the fourth annual Tarpon Springs Summer Solstice Festival of the Performing Arts, a marathon of theatrical shows, concerts and more running through Aug. 24.
Tonight's show is sold out, but the play continues Saturday and Sunday and next weekend at the historic Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.
Lovers tells the tale of Barney Cashman (played by Mike Briggs), a bored restaurateur whose biggest kick in life is using alliteration to name items on the menu. But even "savory swordfish succotash" can't satisfy the cravings of this middle-aged married man, muddled in a mid-life crisis.
Faithful to his wife over the years, the bored 47-year-old plans to use his mother's unoccupied apartment as a love den, hoping to have "one day of pleasure" that will last him the rest of his life.
His first prospect is Elaine Navazio (Jessica Alexander), a cold-hearted sexpot who craves cigarettes and married men. Poor inept Barney just can't move fast enough for her. Next up is a pot-smoking actress and airhead named Bobbi Michele (Trish Chaney). When that encounter goes up in smoke, he moves on to his wife's best friend, Jeanette Fisher (Janice Creneti), a depressed housewife who helps Barney realize what he needs to do.
While Barney's attempts at an illicit affair may fall flat, Simon's funny lines have buoyed theater audiences ever since the show premiered on Broadway in 1969. In 1972, it was made into a film starring Alan Arkin.
"It's a play I knew audiences would love," said director Rick Bronson. "They want to forget about their problems and have some laughs, and I knew this play would deliver."
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