Red Hot: Sandbox Players Open Season With Comedy
The stage at the Sunrise Theater heats up this week as the fledgling Sandbox Players present the delightful Neil Simon comedy, "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers." The production opens Thursday, Oct. 1, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 4.
Perhaps not as well known as some of Simon's other plays, the story of a middle-aged man determined to have one sweeping extra-marital affair before life passes him by ran on Broadway for more than 700 performances and was later adapted into a film.
At the center of this cleverly constructed piece of theater is Barney Cashman, the 47-year-old, overweight owner of a fish restaurant, who married his high school sweetheart and has lived an unspectacular, tranquil, faithful life. On three separate afternoons, he brings women to his mother's apartment while she's off being a hospital volunteer. Behind all the laughter, the audience is won over by the portrayal of a decent fellow who just can't quite pull off an act of adultery.
Don Bridge is the essence of Barney. Moore County audiences have seen him in a variety of roles over the course of the last few years -- everything from The Duke in "Big River" to Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey," to the madcap multiple roles in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" earlier this year and to a cameo performance as The Scotsman in the recent "Golf: The Musical."
Commenting on his latest theatrical endeavor, Bridge says, "Barney is such a sweet, naive soul. His life has been 'nice.' He has never been seriously ill, never been in a car accident, never been robbed. Life has gone out of its way to ignore him, and he wonders if there shouldn't there be something more, something exciting and dramatic. Shouldn't his fantasies be fulfilled?"
Elaine, the first of the three women Barney attempts to seduce, is a hard-bitten, calculating female who likes cigarettes, whiskey and other women's husbands. Lisa Bridge, who has fun with the part, observes, "It's not her first time around the block, and it proves to be a real eye-opener for Barney. She certainly isn't what he is looking for."
Lisa Bridge says that it is always great to share the stage with husband, Don.
"It reminds us of our early start in theater, and by now we know each other so well, we just naturally communicate without saying a word," she says.
Lisa, who was also in "Moon Over Buffalo" and "Tintypes," thinks the role of Elaine gives her a chance to once again demonstrate her flair for comedy.
Next, Barney tries his luck with Bobbi, an unemployed nightclub singer. She comes to the apartment ostensibly to return some money Barney has loaned her, but she is completely oblivious to his intentions. She flits about the room in somewhat of a psychotic frenzy, talking non-stop about her talent and her latest audition for a job.
Kimberly Corrigan has the part of Bobbi, an early Goldie Hawn-like character. She was seen in the first Sandbox Player production a year ago of "Moon Over Buffalo," and before that as the loving dog several seasons ago in Moore OnStage's "Sylvia."
Shannon Dalton, who will be remembered by local audiences for her part as the luscious Anna Held in "Tintypes," and as one of the three Andrews sisters in "Sisters of Swing," both Moore OnStage productions, is Jeanette, the third woman Barney valiantly tries to seduce. Jeanette is a staunch moralist whose husband has cheated on her. In the depths of the depression brought about by this awful situation, she determines to get back at him by having an affair of her own.
Describing what she likes best about the role, Dalton says, "As the two of them communicate, she is lifted out of her depression, and can recognize that not all people are immoral. At the same time, she is able to bring out the best in Barney."
Robert Gay, no stranger to area stages, directs the production. From appearing in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" locally to Temple Theatre's "Hamlet" to "Greater Tuna" in Myrtle Beach and most recently "The Mystery of Irma Vep" at Raleigh's Theatre in the Park, he has been involved on or off stage in either an acting or directing capacity.
Gay says that when he was first approached to direct "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers," he wasn't all that familiar with the work. As he read the script, and then during the first few rehearsals, he found it full of human insights, in addition to the wonderful Simon humor.
Pointing out that Simon's writing is really crisp and witty, Gay says, "It is not just a bunch of one-liners thrown together."
He discovered what he really liked about the play "is the way Neil Simon takes an average joe and puts him in a situation where everyone expects him to do the wrong thing. But he doesn't do the wrong thing on three separate occasions.
"He finally figures out that the grass is not always greener on the other side. He realizes it's okay to be happy with his own life as he has been living it, and that when you go looking for your heart's desire, there's no need to look beyond your own back yard."
This production of "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" is being overseen by Don Bridge, who with his wife, Lisa, started the Sandbox Players a year ago.
Now, however, he has turned the project over to an eight-person steering committee, headed initially by Rod Harter, well-known and respected area theatrical director. Harter explains that the Sandbox Players are a group of individuals who believe there is a place for community theater in the Sandhills.
"We want to build a stable foundation for the theater's growth," he says. "This includes development of a board of directors, by-laws and the necessary 501C3 legal work enabling us to move beyond the Arts Council's umbrella. The master auditions held late this summer were very encouraging in terms of the number of people attending who expressed an interest and willingness to participate in community theater again."
"The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" will be performed at the Sunrise Theater Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Oct. 1-3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m. All seats are general admission and tickets available at the door or by calling (910) 528-0483 are $15 for adults and $10 for students.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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