The Prisoner of Second Avenue (Presented by Wasatch Theatrical Ventures)
At first I expected that the latest production of the 1971 black comedy The Prisoner of Second Avenue—now playing at the in Grove Theatre Center in Burbank—would simply be an engaging, funny trip down memory lane, back to a time of avocado-hued kitchen appliances and collars so big you could land 747s on them.
I was as wrong as I was pleasantly surprised. I think I’d grown accustomed to Neil Simon and took his solid brilliance for granted. Because, as all worthwhile and thoughtful art should do, this production reminded me how very hard good theatre works to shed light for those of us sitting in the dark. How—at its best—it represents the universal, the timeless, the relentlessly perplexing human condition, even as our troubles feel so very current and American. While the garbage strikes, heat waves and abundant macramé of The Prisoner of Second Avenue are still the Upper East Side from 40 years ago, the ups and downs of love, family, life remain supremely relevant. Always.
The audience was Saturday-night-full and not nearly as Seventies-centric as I thought it would be; although a very attentive and enthusiastic crowd it was. The set design of the play’s small New York apartment was spot-on, striking the appropriate scene and mood at first sight. Mark Belnick plays Mel Edison while Kimberly Lewis plays his wife Edna, both of them prisoners of a sort. Their children grown, they are robustly middle-aged, working and involved with life, albeit not happily. Mel and Edna are carrying on with their day to day until—bit by little bit—things fall apart. While the malfunctioning air conditioner and a noisy neighbor start out as the worst things that could possibly befall them, it’s not long before Mel and Edna’s problems accrue into much bigger events. Both Mark Belnick and Kimberly Lewis deftly dance along these edges of comedy and outrage, trouble and tragedy, love and compromise.
Economic woes, gender roles, flirtations with insanity—things progress to a fevered pitch until Family is called in. Reminiscent of and as funny as the sisters in the film The Fighter, Mel’s siblings appear en masse to offer help even as his woes continue. The Family Edison is played by Milda Dacys, Alan Brooks, Lydia Weiss and LB Zimmerman. Putting the black in black comedy, life only gets worse for Mel and Edna within the confines of their Second Avenue apartment until there is little left but to surrender and continue on. Make the best of it, remember why you’re here, love your life, take no prisoners.
Tickets are highly recommended and are available online through Plays411 here -- or call (323) 960-7862 to order by phone.
Grove Theatre Center - Burbank
1111-B West Olive Ave.
Burbank, CA 91506
Plenty of parking in the adjacent lot.
Now through Sunday, April 17
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Running time is about 2 hours with a 10-minute intermission
$30 - $20 students/seniors with valid ID
This theatre has concessions and is wheelchair accessible.
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