Simon's ‘Prisoner of Second Avenue’ fast-paced, fun

Simon's ‘Prisoner of Second Avenue’ fast-paced, fun

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WESTERLY— Neil Simon never disappoints. Nor does the cast of Simon’s farcical, fast-paced comedy, “Prisoner of Second Avenue,” now on stage at the Granite Theatre.

Mark and Diane Foster, an extremely talented, married-in-real-life couple, play the lead roles of Mel and Edna Edison. In the solid supporting cast, John Andriso plays the part of Mel’s brother, Harry Edison, while his sisters are played by Judy George (Pearl), Linda Shea (Pauline), and Katherine Kimmel (Jessie). The acting all around is solid, strong and certain. 

The play takes place entirely in the Edison’s Upper East Side apartment during a summer heat wave. It may be set in the 1970s, but as is the case with all Simon stories, it is every bit as relevant — and hilarious — today as it was nearly half a century ago. Worry, I suppose, is timeless, as is stress … and the ability to laugh at ourselves and life’s challenges.

Poor Mel. (Mark Foster is simply perfect as the neurotic, complaining, kvetching advertising executive who has just lost his job — his timing is precise and he delivers his lines with rapid-fire skill.) His Valium has lost its effectiveness, the pillows on the sofa are driving him to distraction, as are the noisy neighbors, the honking horns from Second Avenue, the broken toilet handle in the bathroom, and a litany of other exasperations. No wonder he’s headed for a crack-up. 

Thank goodness for the long-suffering Edna, who babies her spiraling spouse, heads back to the workforce to keep them afloat, and tries her hardest to maintain her cheerful, positive, hopeful outlook. She even brings sandwiches home from Schrafft’s one day for lunch. Diane Foster is perfectly cast and has a Lucille Ball-like quality to her performance that endears the audience to her, and makes her suggestions all the more ridiculous. Speaking of the audience, they roared throughout the show.

The play is certainly not without poignancy. It’s one of Simon’s signature as a playwright to mix the absurd with the everyday.

“I don’t know where to grab,” Mel tells his wife. “Edna, I’m slipping and I’m scared.”

But as always with Simon, the thoughtful human moments are followed by sarcasm.

When Edna suggests going back to Dr. Pike, his analyst, Mel shoots back: “He’s dead, six years of my life, twenty-three thousand dollars. He’s got my money, what does he care if he gets a heart attack?”

Company regular Jude Pescatello, a sensitive and tactful director with a great sense of humor, is masterful.

The scene with Mel’s siblings is non-stop silly. Andriso is superb, Shea, in her sixth Granite appearance, is excellent, as is Kimmel in her Granite debut. And it’s always a treat to see George on the stage.

“Prisoner of Second Avenue” runs through Aug. 26.



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