By Holly Glen Gearhart
Neil Simon’s play “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” opens Friday, March 1 at the Wagner Performing Arts Center and runs through March 17.
One of Simon’s best-known plays, the story follows the adventures of a middle aged man who joins the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The play hits a common note for anyone who is approaching mid-life and looks back to say to himself, “is that all there is?”
The play held the stage on Broadway for 706 performances and won four Tony Awards.
Tickets are $14 for general admission and $12 for seniors, students and members of the military. Performances are at the Wagner Performing Arts Center, 639 W. Main St. in Monroe. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online through the Sky Performing Arts Center’s website; http://skyperformingarts.com/ or call (360) 863-1663 to reserve a seat.
The play is part of a long theater tradition in Monroe, according to Sky Performing Arts’ Lory Tossey.
“Originally there were two theater groups in Monroe; Take a Bough and Off the Wall Theatre,” she said. “Take a Bough used to perform at what is now the Eagles across the street from the post office and Off the Wall Theatre used to perform at what is now the Sherwin-Williams store. Theater at one time had been pretty vital in Monroe and those two theater groups would join to do [large scale] musicals such as ‘My Fair Lady.’ Audience attendance was good and many shows were sold out.”
Community theater is itself an important part of the drama tradition of the United States.
Community theater is often the start of a stage career; one example is Tommy Tune, who began his theatrical career in community theater in Houston, Tex. Over his 50-year career he went on to win nine Tony Awards and other coveted prizes in the arts.
The roots of American professional theater can be traced throughout the 1800s by newspaper advertisements or reviews of the “little theater” performances in communities. Little theaters grew to become community theater as we know it today.
Many cultural trappings came out west with the people who left the east during the great Western Expansion; overtime, having a community theater was counted as one of the cultural attributes which came to define a civilized settlement. Early western theater might have performed by firelight on the dusty western plains, or in a theater in a mountain town that became the cornerstone of entertainment, or by a troupe of actors performing the “passion play” for a local church.
With the advent of the streaming movie and expanded commute times, what was a vital part of living in a community is being lost and more and more time is spent alone. A trip with a friend to the play, and coffee, pie and conversation after could make for the time of your life.