Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Last of the Red Hot Lovers, ostensibly a comedy, deals with mid-life crisis, brought on by the recognition of one’s mortality, the generation gap, and drastic changes in accepted standards of morality; finally, there is an affirmation that through it all there is hope for decency.

Barney Cashman, the protagonist, finds himself at the close of the 1960’s trying to behave as a member of the “now generation,” but because he brings with him the mores of a former time, he fails. As Elaine Navazio points out, he is an incurable romantic, dreaming of a liaison based on genuine communication, perhaps even affection, with sex only as a sublime culmination. The notion of casual, recreational sex has never occurred to Barney, although he has unrealistically allotted only a few short hours in which to realize his fantasy.

With Bobbi Michele, the playwright stresses the generation gap in earnest. Twenty years his junior, Bobbi exhibits all the freewheeling attitudes of the period regarding language, sex, and the use of narcotics. Furthermore, she is completely self-absorbed and irresponsible. Attempting to deny his age, Barney listens to her, but Bobbi does not reciprocate. It is only after they both get “high” that they manage a duet of “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”

In the third segment of the play, Neil Simon, while maintaining the comic tone, comes to grips with the question of whether radically changed social...

(The entire section is 444 words.)