The Granite Theatre and Paul Lynch's first show of the premiere winter season is Neil Simon's dark comedy, "The Prisoner of Second Avenue". The show takes place in the New York City apartment of Mel and Edna Addison(David Jepson and Emilietta Godfrin). Mel is in the midst of having a nervous breakdown. He is 47 years old, loses his job, has no prospects for another and on top of it, his wife ends up as the family breadwinner. Although having a nervous breakdown is a serious matter, there are many funny lines between Mel and Edna to lighten plot as it races along. Mel's brother, Harry(Wayne Hawkins) and his three sisters, Pauline(Sue Staniunas), Pearl(Beth Stemple) and Jessie(Carolyn Trehisacci) have a meeting to decide how to help Mel deal with his breakdown. The typical Jewish family scene adds to the comic moments of this show.. Neil Simon can make any situation hilarious and this show is no exception. What a great way to start off your winter season!
David Jepson not only directs this show, he gives a tour-de-force performance as Mel. The gradual descent of this character into his nervous breakdown scene is outstanding. David adds many acting layers to the well written character. The ranting and raving scenes into the utter dejection and despair of this man is handled beautifully. The humor and pathos are blended together to give you the insight to why this man has fallen to the depths of depression. David shows how the world around him has caved in and he has become a prisoner in his own home. His direction of his fellow performers stands out, too. Two very hysterical scenes are the water throwing ones. Mel's final revenge of burying the culprit in a pile of snow is another funny moment when he stands with Edna and his shovel creating the final tableau of the show.(Think of the 1930's painting of the farmer holding a pitchfork with his wife by his side.) Radio newscasts of events in New York City are used for the scene changes. They provoke a good deal of laughter so the audience has to listen to them very carefully.
Playing David's acting partner is Emilietta Godfrin. She is every bit David's equal in this show. Emilietta's characterization is played on many different levels. She goes from understanding wife to the realization of her husband's complete loss of reality. She plays all scenes like the true professional she is. Emilietta has a chance in the last scene to get out of control because Edna has lost her job, too. What an hilarious chance for her to let loose as a wild person. Emilietta handles the role of Edna perfectly. She is adept at comedy and drama and always does outstanding work in her roles. Brava on a job well done.
Wayne Hawkins as the very Jewish brother, Harry adds the lightness and comic touches needed in the second act. Whether he is arguing with his sisters or trying to force Mel to take money to open a summer sports camp, he brings a smile to the audience. The scenes with his sisters are Neil Simon's humor at its best. The three sisters are played by Sue Staniunas as Pauline, the cheapskate who doesn't want to give Mel the money, Beth Stemple as Pearl, the one who remembers everything about Mel's childhood and Carolyn Trehisacci as Jessie, the one who cries throughout almost the whole scene. Each sister eventually sees the tragic circumstance that has befallen Mel and end their scene with tears in their eyes.
A very talented cast led by stage manager by Ali Cruso assisted by Johanna Lockhart as props mistress and lighting designer, Marcus Abbott is at the newly refurbished Granite Theatre. It is a hidden gem in the middle of Westerly. To get there take 95 south to Exit 1 and follow Route 3 for an enjoyable evening of theatre.
THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE (till 5 November)
Granite Theatre / 1 Granite St., WESTERLY, RHODE ISLAND /1(401) 596-2341