As one of American’s most prolific and successful playwrights, Neil Simon is often acclaimed for his unique way of exposing something real in the American spirit. With a notable contemporary relevance, Simon’s “Prisoner of Second Avenue” will officially open the Centenary Stage Company’s professional theatre season in the new David and Carol Lackland Center on the campus of Centenary College in Hackettstown on Oct. 1.
“Is the whole world going out of business?” asks Mel Edison’s wife Edna, as they face Edison’s sudden unemployment, an intense summer heat wave, a prolonged garbage strike, a daytime robbery, noisy neighbors, and unending economic challenges that drive Edison to the brink of a nervous breakdown. Simon’s play treats the challenges his characters face with his usual comic craft.
The ability to create humor from the lives and troubles of everyday people is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s greatest contribution, maintains the American Masters Series on PBS. Artistic Director Carl Wallnau will direct “Prisoner of Second Avenue” which will run through Oct 17.
Veteran actor Allen Lewis Rickman returns to CSC for a comic turn in the role of Mel Edison. Audiences will see Rickman this month in the premiere of Scorcese’s “Boardwalk Empire” on HBO and will remember his performance in Barry Levinson’s television feature about Jack Kevorkian entitled “You Don’t Know Jack,” with Al Pacino. Rickman was also featured this past year in the Coen Brother’s film, “A Serious Man.”
“One of the state’s best actresses” (Star Ledger), Liz Zazzi will portray Mel’s wife Edna. Zazzi has appeared at many of New Jersey’s professional theatres, as well as New York’s Central Park Summerstage, Riverside Shakespeare Co. and Lincoln Center.Jeffrey Farber will play Edison’s brother Harry. Following a “sizzling” performance of Henry Kissinger in “Nixon’s Nixon” at the Virginia Premiere Theatre, Farber was also seen regionally in “A Thousand Clowns” at the Bickford Theatre, and as “Serge” in “Art” at the Womens Theatre Company. Susan Barrett will play Edison’s NJ sister, Pearl. Barrett’s television work includes appearances on 30-Rock, Law and Order and Late Night with Conan O’Brian. She has performed at venues from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and NY’s Ensemble Studio Theatre to Lincoln Center.
Deborah Guarino (Sussex) will play Pauline. In addition to her work on the stage, Guarino is also the author of the popular children’s book, “Is Your Mama a Llama?” Guarino has also appeared in the NBC series “Mercy.” A CSC favorite, Maria Brodeur (Rockaway), last seen in Hackettstown in CSC’s holiday comedy “My Three Angels,” will play Brenda. Tickets for “Prisoner of Second Avenue” range in price from $ 20 to $25, with special discounts for seniors, students and groups. A “Buffet Matinee” series offers a catered luncheon with matinee performances for groups of 20 or more. A special tradition locally for the economically-minded, Thursday evenings at CSC are “Family Nights” with two-for-one ‘rush’ ticket prices available at the door on the evening of the performance. Tickets are available online at centenarystageco.org, and at the CSC box office, Monday through Friday, from 1-5 p.m.