How do you get over the everyday of it all? The monotony that you’ve built up over the years one routine at a time? The realisation of the rut in itself is startling, the baulking against it thought of as ugly. And it’s this coping mechanism that we see - nuts, bolts and all - in Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers, an iteration of which is playing out at the Junction from September 19-21.
The story of a married man (Barney) trying to affair himself out of a staid point in life and his encounters with three very different women was at first difficult to swallow for Rashmi Kotriwala, the director of the play. “It seemed implausible.”
“Upon a second read,” she says however, “I started to picture the play and scenes. The story started to grow on me.”
The stage harks back to 1969/1970. “We are trying to put together an elaborate set to make it look as authentic as possible because the set is an invisible/ghost character in the play…It stands for the values that Barney has been brought up with and that is probably the singular most important presence which has an effect on the character's responses in the play,” says Kotriwala.
The play sees Barney meet three women in his mother’s house with the singular thought of impropriety. First up, there is Elaine (played by Yasmin Altas) who has a blunt-bordering-on-crude attitude towards meeting Barney. She calls him out when he tries to turn into a simpering lout, and when he decides to deride her for her life’s decisions. Next up is Bobbi (Farzana Palathingal), a bit of a scatterbrain who has found herself alone and in thorny situations over and over again. And finally, there’s the sad, lonely and judgemental Jeanette Fisher (Sarah Potter), who is married to Barney’s best friend.
So what do these women represent? For Rohit Prakash, who plays Barney, the three women represent different aspects of life. “It is just the order in the play which is mixed, the first lady (Elaine) represents and reiterates the importance of loyalty and companionship, which we need to keep nourishing in our relationships; the second lady (Bobbi) represents the importance of spontaneity and self-confidence, which generally is what we have during our youth and tend to lose along the way as we reach our middle age; [and] the third lady (Jeanette) represents the importance of excitement that needs to be maintained in spousal relationships.”
Simon wrote the acts in 1969, but the human traits - frailty, discontent, ambition, fortitude, morality - those strands lie unblemished by the passing of time. “Barney's character resonated with me quite deeply ever since I read the play,” explains Kotriwala. “I saw several potential Barneys in my inner circle, including the husband. We belong to the same age bracket as Barney, we have similar value systems and lead good comfortable lives and yet there are existential questions that arise in the middle age. Everyone of our friends is or has gone through a mid-life crisis and each has had his or her own way of dealing with it.So I could relate with the topic itself.”
“Of course Barney's style of dealing with mid-life crisis may not be an answer others are looking at but his actions and reactions to the given circumstance is what most of us will be able to relate to,” she adds.
It’s a lesson on individuality all Barneys could stand to learn from - after all, rediscovery and recreation are two ways to ensure your today is better than the one gone past.
Don’t miss it!
Last of The Red Hot Lovers runs at The Junction from September 19-21. Tickets to the show start at Dh60.