Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stage Door Theatre: The Prisoner of Second Avenue (2 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Byron Carlyle Theatre in Miami Beach on November 4, 2011.  The show ran through November 27, and then re-located to their Coral Springs location for a December 23rd opening.
New York City is in the middle of the worst heat wave in decades, and a garbage strike is in full swing.   Mel Edison is being driven crazy by the two stewardesses who live next door and their all night parties.  Just when he thinks it couldn’t get any worse, he gets robbed, and his psychiatrist dies with $23,000.00 of his money. Don’t miss this wildly funny Neil Simon comedy..
W.F. Wilson directed a cast that included Dan Kelley, Derelle Bunn, Bob Levitt, Phyllis Spear, Gail Byer, and Margie Elias Eisenberg.

John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
At the time this admittedly dark comedy was written, the improbability of all that befalls the Edisons is what made it comical. It was a time when the corporate world was strong and companies did not just go out of business overnight. Today the tale is one told all over the United States. An upside-down housing market, high unemployment, companies cutting benefits, retirement funds disappearing, Occupy Wall Street, and a recession that is not yet over make The Prisoner of Second Avenue a far darker comedy than originally intended.

As the downtrodden Mel, Dan Kelley wrings out every possible ounce of comedy in his performance. His rubber-faced antics, character quirks, and fast-paced responses help lighten the play considerably... Bob Levitt as Mel's brother Harry has a nice moment in the second act when he scrapes off a bit of his crusty nature to reveal his feelings about Mel for probably the first time in his life. Phyllis Spear, Gail Byer and Margie Elias Eisenberg are well cast as the three sisters. They titter like birds sitting on a fence as they speak over one another with the comfortable familiarity born of long acquaintance.

Derelle Bunn as Edna conveys a warmth and affection for Mel amidst all he concern for his mental health. Both actors thankfully find the bittersweet humor of the play in the last scene. It is Neil Simon's version of survival by merely laughing through it all.

Ron Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
Imagine someone — today — dropped a bucket of water on you from the 1970s and the first thought you had was, "Wow, that water is still bracing after 40 years."

That's kind of how you might feel watching The Prisoner of Second Avenue at Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.
"The Prisoner of Second Avenue" really hums along when it's just Mel and Edna in the first act. Simon's dialogue comes at such a rapid pace and Kelley has a real knack for blending punch lines seamlessly into the dialogue so it all avoids hokeyness. Bunn takes a while to ramp up, but hits it solidly by the second act, which may perhaps be more due to the script than the decisions of director W.F. Wilson.

Aaah, the second act. That's when Simon — normally a very canny writer — sends in the cavalry, even if the plot hardly needed a rescue. I would have loved to watch Mel and Edna bat it around a bit more, just the two of them. Instead we get Mel's brother and three sisters for a funny, if not an altogether unnecessary, intervention
The Prisoner of Second Avenue plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through January 29, 2012.

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