(Charles Isherwood's reviewed appeared in The New York Times, August 5.)
Downsized Before There Was a Word for It
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — “There are no jobs for 47-year-old men,” wails the newly and miserably unemployed Mel Edison in Neil Simon’s temper-tantrum comedy “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.” The plaintive cry elicits robust chuckles of sympathy from audiences at the Berkshire Theater Festival here, where this play from 1971 has been revived during our own summer of seething economic angst.
“Is the whole world going out of business?” moans Mel’s equally beleaguered wife, Edna, when she too is faced with sudden job loss.
Boy, do we feel your pain, Mel and Edna. The trials endured by this middle-class Manhattan couple, portrayed with keening intensity by the talented actors Stephen DeRosa and Veanne Cox, strike a distinctly contemporary chord. Noisy neighbors, wailing sirens, burglaries and fridges on the fritz may be the wallpaper of urban-nightmare stories from the 1970s, but the larger troubles Mel and Edna face have a potently topical punch in this timely revival, directed by Warner Shook. As the nerve-rattling struggles of the Edisons remind us, green shoots of hope can be hard to discern when the world around you seems like a blasted heath . . .