IT'S finally time: Tybee Island and its surrounding communities can enjoy live theatre in the glow of the freshly renovated Tybee Post Theatre.
The Post Theatre and Tybee Arts Association have teamed up to present The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and the cast and crew couldn’t be more excited to expand their reach.
“We’re so happy to be on this stage,” gushes Tybee Arts Association’s Renee DeRossett. “We’ve been dreaming about this for 20 years!”
DeRossett has been involved with the Tybee Arts Association since its incorporation. While theatrical productions in the Association’s Jim Ingham Black Box Theater have been hits over the years, the intimate space only seats about 50 people.
“Every time we’ve done a big show, we’ve had to do it in a Tybee gym, or transform different buildings into a stage,” explains DeRossett. “We’ve been dreaming about a big stage, and the day has come, and it’s beautiful! We can seat 203 people.”
To celebrate, they’re christening the beautiful historic stage with a comedy from legendary, Pulitzer-winning playwright Neil Simon.
“Tybee loves Neil Simon comedies,” raves DeRossett. “It’s a show we’d wanted to do for awhile—we knew our audiences would love it.”
Set in 1969 in in the heat of the sexual revolution, Last of the Red Hot Lovers chronicles one man’s attempt to have an affair and join in the swinging ‘60s before it’s too late.
A first time adulterer, Barney Cashman’s exploits with three very different women are side-splitting, delightfully costumed, and brought to live by a vivacious cast.
Joshua Stafford takes the lead as Barney (in classic Tybee fashion, DeRossett began chatting with Stafford about the role when the two bumped into each other on a beach stroll).
“He was in the military and was very excited, because this theater was built by the military to show movies back in the ‘30s,” says DeRossett. “It’s actually one of the oldest movie houses in America; they showed The Jazz Singer way back in the day. He’s very excited as an homage to the military to bring that back.”
With Stafford at the center, Last of the Red Hot Lovers is guaranteed to have the audience in stitches.
“The journey his character takes in trying to have an affair and realizing what he has is perfect anyway is adorable,” DeRossett says. “It’s an enormous acting feat.”
While the story may revolve around Barney’s experience, the women in his life are among the finest characters Simon has penned.
“Nobody writes roles for women like him,” praises DeRossett. “Each one of these roles are strong.”
And what varied roles they are. Elaine Navazio (played by Kim Trammell) is the man-eater of the bunch: hot, highly experienced, and possessing a taste for cigarettes, whiskey, and married men.
Bobbi Michelle (played by new-to-Savannah Raina Bass) is an actress whom Barney soon discovers may be more eccentric than he initially expected.
“We met her at the Tybee Post Theater Wine Festival,” says DeRossett. “She’d just moved here, she was an actress, and we were looking for our hottie from California. She is dynamite! We’re so excited to have her join our core of actors.”
Barney’s wife’s best friend, Jeanette Fisher (played by DeRossett), is a staunch moralist who acts as hapless Barney’s third attempted lover.
“With the three scenes, it feels like three different plays,” DeRossett explains. “They’re all very different women.”
Though Last of the Red Hot Lovers is essentially a play about cheating, DeRossett notes that it’s much more complex and emotional than audiences might expect.
“It’s an absolute fast-paced, enjoyable evening of comedy, but it has heart,” she says.
“It sounds like it’s risqué, and it’s a dark plot, but really, it’s about the relationships between men and women down to the nitty-gritty. The play is written and takes places in 1969, but it’s timeless because of the relationships between those people onstage. They go over every realm of a relationship, and Neil Simon is brilliant in that respect.”