‘Last of The Red Hot Lovers’heats up Malibu Stage Co.

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    The theater company inaugurates its first full season of plays with a Neil Simon revival

    By Caroline Thomas/Special to The Malibu Times

    Bringing some real drama to the town of Malibu is the quest of a small group of dedicated players. Now, the Malibu Stage Co. becomes “official” with the advent of a full season of plays with subscriptions available.

    The first performance on the docket is one of Neil Simon’s earlier installments, “Last of The Red Hot Lovers.” This is number eight in Simon’s fruitful roster of 27 plays. It became a Broadway hit with its premiere in 1969.

    It’s the story of Barney Cashman and his mid-life crisis. After 23 years of marriage Barney decides to explore the possibility of having an affair. James Coco played the meanderer on stage; Alan Arkin took on the filmed version in 1972. Stage and television actor Skye McKenzie welcomed the chance to play Barney in Malibu’s version.

    “It deals with the universal issue of getting older,” says McKenzie, “and being surprised that half or more of your life is gone and you haven’t done what you wanted. There’s a lot of depth in Simon’s writing.”

    In each of the three acts, Barney attempts a rendezvous with a potential paramore. Anette Michelle Sanders, Jane Brucker and Marjorie Bowman play the three women. Brucker enjoys playing the talkative actress-cum-lounge singer from act two: “It’s a real challenge to be a real scatterbrain.”

    On the characters’ unscrupulous intentions, Brucker adds, “Everybody is decent but people can be really crummy. But then even crummy people can have a heart.”

    At the helm is director Christopher Hart, who also hails from TV and stage. Hart was raised in the New York entertainment scene. His mother was Kitty Carlisle, famed for her performance opposite the Marx Brothers in “A Night at the Opera” and later for her numerous game show stints. His father was Moss Hart, who wrote “A Star is Born” and directed “My Fair Lady.”

    Hart says, “In some ways Neil Simon is part of the next generation of writers [after my father] that went on with the idea of character comedy, rather then vaudeville or one-liner joke telling. It’s the template that has been used in TV, film and theater.”

    Hart is touched by Simon’s delve into the human condition.

    “All his characters are so human and multi-dimensional,” says Hart. “They all have flaws … like us. It’s very contemplative and nostalgic at the same time.”

    Although the play is set in the soul-searching turmoil of the late ’60s, Hart surmises that the story is timeless.

    “I think it will be a crowd pleaser. It’s fresh for a lot of people … a whole new generation.”

    “Last of The Red Hot Lovers” opens Friday.

    Malibu Stage Co.’s season extends from April through September. The scheduled plays also include “Murdering Marlowe,” an original story of a tormented William Shakespeare struggling with the Elizabethan theater scene; “Private Life,” which portrays Noel Coward coping with bad reviews; and “Fellow Traveler,” the story of two Hollywood writers who are disillusioned by the end of the cold war.

    A season subscription for four plays is $60 per person. Individual show tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased by calling 310.589.1998. The Malibu Stage Co. theater is located at 29243 Pacific Coast Highway (across the highway from Zooma Sushi).