“Prisoner of Second Avenue Survives” Challenges

Carla Betz and Joe Fiske.

Carla Betz and Joe Fiske.

Full of subjects relevant to our current economic doldrums, Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” reveals a couple’s financial woes through comic situations and one-liners. ELATE presents an entertaining and well-acted production that hits the mark.
Mel Edison (Joe Fiske) worries about the future, his health and everything in between, bickering with his wife Edna (Carla Betz) and neighbors just about anything. He’s falling into a pit of despair. Within a few days of each other, he loses his job and their apartment gets robbed. How will they survive?
The play’s themes of unemployment, financial cutbacks and health insurance woes really hit home, though certain slang and situations date the play.
Director Stanley Brown builds energy into the piece with his staging, enhanced by the actors’ good timing. He draws fine performances from the leads, which possess great rapport and energy with each other.
Fiske brings a likeable and goofy charm to the tense, anxious Mel. Betz provides a calming antidote to the hyper Fiske, understated and relaxed. Jeff Zimmer gives comic flair to the television anchormen.
Production work also enhances the piece, from Jamie Hitchcock’s warm lighting, Mark Stegman’s sound work and the elaborate 1970’s apartment set.
Full of realistic economic situations balanced with slapstick elements, witty one-liners, comebacks and fine acting, “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” demonstrates that a little levity and faith can help anyone survive potential disaster.

ELATE presents Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm through November 22 at the Lincoln Stegman Theater in Emmanuel Lutheran Church (6020 Radford Ave. in North Hollywood). Tickets cost $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students (13 and under). For information or reservations, call (818) 509-0882.

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