AUGUST, 2009

Dark comedy proves an entertaining affair

Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Murrayfield Parish Church Centre
CASANOVA: Restauranteur Barney and the women in his life
CASANOVA: Restauranteur Barney and the women in his life

Theatre   WILD, uninhib­ited, uncompli­cated sex is happening to everyone but fish restaurateur Barney, as the lib­erated Sixties fly past him in his mid-life crisis in this Edinburgh Makars production of Neil Simon's comedy.
  With Derek Melon as a deli­ciously-mournful Barney, the company ensures that this is a funny but poignant examination of one man coping with his own failings as a husband – and the realisation that instead of playing away he just needs to look closer to home.
  Set in Barney's mum's New York apartment, the play follows his attempts to seduce three very different women.
    Irene Beldon is married man-­eater Elaine, who has picked Bar­ney for a casual afternoon liaison.
   Nicola Shepherd plays hippy ­chick Bobbi - wide-eyed and inno­cent of his real intentions. While Eileen Stout as his wife's best friend, Jeanette, is his final attempt to get laid outside the marital bed.
   Because Barney only has the afternoon off between the lunch and dinner shifts in the restaurant, each act follows the same pattern, allowing Melon to build his char­acter slowly.
    In the opening scene, when Bar­ney is at his most tentative, he takes his time making the flat look exactly as it should before Elaine arrives. Director Margaret Milne could have let Melon take even longer over it. Each detail - putting his outdoor shoes on a paper, the new glasses - adds to the character.

Evening News Drama Awards   

  Extending that opening does a put greater demands on the person playing Elaine, however, as she then needs to enter as even more of a whirlwind. Irene Beldon was not, per­haps, that whirlwind, although, she certainly had the look of a woman who was looking forward to enjoying herself.  
    Bobbi has the most outrageous lines, as she recounts her life of insane sexual encounters. Nicola Shepherd doesn't play her totally for laughs, but does allow that underlying neurosis to seep through. And the comedy gets even darker in the final scene, when Jeanette reveals that her own husband is being unfaithful.
   If Melon and Stout don't have the wherewithal to take it quite as far into the dark as is possible, they keep the comedy flowing.
Run ends Saturday