Azuay Community Theater to present Neil Simon’s comedy ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue’

Feb 10, 2024 | 0 comments

By John Olson and David A. McTier

Neil Simon was indisputably the most successful and prolific playwright for the Broadway stage in the 20th Century. As a lifelong New Yorker, most of his plays were set in the “Big Apple” and Simon appears to have had a love-hate relationship with his city. Nowhere is that more evident than in his black comedy The Prisoner of Second Avenue, which Azuay Community Theatre, Cuenca’s English-language live theater company, will present for four performances only – February 15, 16, 17, and 18.

Cody Hamilton

The ”Prisoner” of the title is Mel Edison, a middle-aged advertising executive who lives with his wife Edna in an overpriced high rise apartment building on Second Avenue in the east ‘80s and  has just lost his job. The walls are paper-thin, their neighbors are rude, and the air conditioning doesn’t work. The garbage workers are on strike and with temperatures in the ‘80s, the city is beginning to smell. Then things get bad.

Written and produced during some of NYC’s most troubled years, The Prisoner of Second Avenue premiered on Broadway in late 1971 at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, just a few blocks north of Times Square. This was not the Disney-fied tourist haven that we have known and flocked to for the past twenty-plus years. No, this was a Times Square notorious for its peep shows, prostitution, and drug deals — a veritable Midtown mecca for grime and crime in a polluted and corrupt city on the verge of economic collapse. In 1970 alone — just a year before the premiere — the unemployment rate in the greater metro area increased 41%, and NYC was forced to cut back on public services including police and sanitation. The “Big Apple” was rotting from within…and Neil Simon couldn’t help but reflect it in this, his “darkest” comedy.

Bob Hay

ACT favorites Hamilton and Hay to lead the cast
Appearing as the beleaguered residents of Second Avenue are ACT’s Bob Hay as Mel and Cody Hamilton as Edna. This is the fourth time in ACT’s history and the second time in the past 2 years that the two have played a married couple together. But Cuenca has never before seen the two opposite each other in such tryingly hilarious circumstances.

One year ago, they played an aging couple with dueling “senior moments” in “I’m Herbert,” one of ACT’s “Evening of Short Plays.” Hamilton more recently appeared in ACT’s production of “The Cemetery Club” this past October. Also in the cast are Joy Broomfield, Melody Crabb, Wes Elliott, and Kate Wohlfeld. Rick Snyder, director of ACT’s 2023 productions of The Last Romance and Trumbo: Red, White, and Blacklisted, is directing.

The production team includes Marion Keith (Stage Manager).Jeffery Schmidt (Set Design), Don Trammel (Lead for Set Construction and Sound), Mark Deckard (Set Construction), Maria Argüello (Set Decoration), Derek Weber (Lights Lead), Saralee Squires (Lights Operator), Mike Casto (Sound Operator), Christine Clark (Costumes), Melody Crabb (Props Lead), Mary Helfrich (Props), Pamela Phoenix (Hair and Makeup) and John Braswell (Prompter). Set painting crew is Maria Argüello, Joy Broomfield, Julie Campbell, Christine Clark, Bob Hay, Marion Keith, Debby Kufner, Jack Sitzman, Rick Snyder, Saralee Squires.

Performances are Thursday, February 15 and Friday, February 16 at 2:00 pm and Saturday, February 17 and Sunday, February 18 at 4 pm. Azuay Community Theatre is located at 14-46 Jose Antonio Muñoz, between Estévez de Toral and Coronel Tálbot. All seats are $15 and tickets are available with advance reservations only at www.actseats.com.

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