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Neil Simon Comedy March 12 - 15, Students Free w/ID

Mattie Kelly Arts Center


Mel, played by Zachary Phillips & Edna, played by Tara Sindelar
Mel, played by Zachary Phillips & Edna, played by Tara Sindelar

3/4/2014 - Neil Simon Comedy Presented at College March 12 to 15

Northwest Florida State College presents the Neil Simon comedy ”The Prisoner of Second Avenue” in the Sprint Theater at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville for four nights, Wednesday, March 12 through Saturday, March 15th at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Produced by the college’s Fine & Performing Arts Division and directed by theater professor Clint Mahle, the work centers around a middle-aged married couple who must face the trivial and relentless vexations of New York life when the husband, Mel, played by Zachary Phillips of Niceville, loses not just his job, but also his confidence.

Mel Edison is a well-paid executive of a high-end Manhattan firm which has suddenly hit the skids, so he gets the ax. His wife Edna, played by Tara Sindelar of Fort Walton Beach, takes a job to tide them over, then she too is sacked. The action occurs during an intense summer heat wave and a prolonged garbage strike, which just exacerbates the couple’s plight to no end – all in classic Neil Simon comedy style.

“As we rehearse the production, I am constantly amazed at the relevance of Simon’s material to the plight of today’s middle-class who find themselves unemployed or under-employed,” noted Clint Mahle. “It is quite poignant as Edna and Mel overcome the harsh changes to their lifestyle and relationship.”

“The Prisoner of Second Avenue” premiered on Broadway in 1971 and closed after 798 performances and four previews. The original cast featured Peter Falk and Lee Grant starring as Mel and Edna Edison. In 1975, Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft starred in the film version of the work. Rivals of the work have included a 2010 West End run that starred Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl that was Ruehl's London stage debut.

Of the original production, Time Magazine wrote that Simon’s play, "Creates an atmosphere of casual cataclysm, an everyday urban purgatory of copelessness from which laughter seems to be released like vapor from the city's manholes."

In “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” the job stress is compounded by the air-pollution killing Mel’s plants and the paper-thin walls of his apartment which allow him a constant earful of his neighbor’s private lives. Things can't seem to get any worse. But then Mel is robbed and his psychiatrist dies with $23,000 of his money! Mel does the only thing left for him to do: He has a nervous breakdown and it's the best thing that ever happened to him.

The New York Post noted that Simon has a “A gift for taking a grave subject and, without losing sight of its basic seriousness, treating it with hearty but sympathetic humor...A talent for writing a wonderful funny line...full of humor and intelligence. Fine fun."

The play’s characters also include Harry, the oldest of Mel’s four siblings. The cynical, frustrated, and acerbic Harry is also the voice of reason in the play and is portrayed by Tom Mosley of Freeport, a longtime veteran of the NWFSC stage. Mel’s remaining siblings, who are overbearing as they have always spoiled Mel because he is the youngest, are Pearl, Jessie, and Pauline, played respectively by Sheila Johnson of Crestview, Danielle Valdez of Navarre and Naomi Campagne of Crestview.

Tickets for the NWFSC production of “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” are $15 adults and $10 for youth age 18 or younger and are on sale now by phone, web or in-person from the Box Office at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. Call (850) 729-6000 Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm or purchase online at The Box Office will also open at 6:00 p.m. each night of the show for any remaining tickets, subject to availability. Sprint Theater doors open at 7:00 p.m. for general admission seating. NWFSC students may receive one free ticket per student ID in person from the Box Office.

The 185-seat Sprint Theater is the smaller of two theater venues at the college's performing arts center and advance ticket purchase is recommended. The Sprint Theater at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College is directly adjacent to the Mainstage Theater at 100 College Blvd., Niceville, FL.

See the center's Facebook page for additional photos of the performance rehearsals, show program and custom set design.