Jason Alexander and Gina Hecht Will Star in the Neil Simon Comedy The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood

By Ken Werther

Jason Alexander stars in “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” at the El Portal Theatre.

Producers Tom Brocato, Butterfield Road Productions, in association with Charles A. Eisler, Producers Network, have announced a special engagement of the comedy The Prisoner of Second Avenue by Neil Simon, starring Jason Alexander and Gina Hecht. Directed by Glenn Casale, the production will begin performances at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood on April 21 — for three weeks only — through May 15.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue revolves around the escalating problems of a middle-aged couple living on Second Avenue on the Upper East Side of New York City. Mel Edison (portrayed by Alexander) has just lost his job after many years and now has to cope with being unemployed at middle age. The action occurs during an intense summer heat wave and a prolonged garbage strike, which just exacerbates Edison’s plight to no end as he and his wife Edna (Hecht) deal with noisy neighbors, loud sounds emanating from Manhattan streets and even a robbery of their apartment in broad daylight. Mel eventually suffers a nervous breakdown from the whole affair, and it is up to the loving care of his brother Harry, his sisters and his wife Edna to bring Mel back to a firm reality. Neil Simon’s 1971 play walks a tightrope between comedy and drama in this bittersweet tale. The play is perhaps more relevant today than it was when it first debuted on Broadway 40 years ago. The original Broadway production opened in the fall of 1971, starring Peter Falk and Lee Grant, and ran for two years, closing at the end of 1973. It was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.

Gina Hecht also stars in Neil Simon’s classic play running April 21 through May 15.

This new production will also star Annie Korzen, Ron Orbach, DeeDee Rescher, and Carole Ita White. The set design for The Prisoner of Second Avenue is by Stephen Gifford, lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg, costume design by Kate Bergh and sound design by Philip G. Allen.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue plays two lower-priced previews on Thursday, April 21, and Friday, April 22, at 8 p.m. Opening night is set for Saturday, April 23, at 8 p.m. The regular performance schedule is Wednesday (except May 4) through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 6 p.m., with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. There will be two special performances on Tuesday, May 3, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit www.elportaltheatre.com, or call (866) 811-4111 or (818) 508-4200.

The El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood.