The Neuse Little Theatre’s next production is not for children.
Continuing its 41st season, which showcases American classics, the NLT will present Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” opening Friday at the Hut.
Set in 1970, the comedy casts Shaun Braswell as Barney Cashman, a middle-aged, married restaurant owner who wants to get in on the sexual revolution before it’s too late.
The action takes place in his mother’s apartment, where the would-be philanderer sets up seductions with three women who wind up having as many quirks as Barney.
Barney’s first mark is Elaine Navazio (Theressa Rose), a brash broad who enjoys drinking, smoking, cursing and sleeping with other people’s husbands.
After falling flat with Elaine, Barney tries his luck with Bobbi Michele (Jacqueline Dorry), a neurotic, 20-something actress who introduces the older man to marijuana.
Finally, he takes a stab at Jeanette Fisher (Joyce Kilpatrick-Jordan), a dejected housewife and staunch moralist who happens to be married to Barney’s best friend.
None of the women meet each other on stage, which makes Barney the only constant in the cast of four. That means a lot of lines for Braswell, who for the first time is also playing a man older than himself.
“It’s definitely a new challenge, but being able to do it alongside three beautiful women is definitely a plus,” he said.
The play is Dorry’s first with the NLT, and she said portraying Bobbi has stretched her skills as an actress.
“This is my most challenging role to date,” she said. “I have to pretend I’m on weed, and I have to sing on stage, and I have to not play the stereotype.”
Director Tony Pender said he would not recommend bringing the kids to see “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” but he does think the production would make for a great date night.
“Early in the rehearsal process, one of the first things I sat back and thought was, ‘You know what? I should bring my wife to this,’” he said. “There’s depth there if you want it, but you can just sit back and laugh your butt off.”
Darius Rose is the production’s assistant director.
In order to bring the material up to date, Pender said he changed some outdated pop culture references, marked up the price of lunch and a cab ride and replaced landlines with cellphones.
Pender and the actors have also had fun finding ways to modernize the three women, he said. While most of their lines remain the same, they played with the communication that is nonverbal to bring the characters into the 21st century. The changes ultimately empowered the female characters, Pender said, and they end up treating Barney in a lot of the stereotypical ways men treat women.
“Although the words and situations are familiar, this isn’t your mom’s ‘Red Hot Lover,’” he said.
‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers’
Dates: 8 p.m. May 29-30 and June 5-6; 3 p.m. May 31.
Where: The Hut, 104 S. Front St., Smithfield.
Tickets: $13 for reserved seats; $15 at the door.