After a week of directing, it's a bit of a relief to be back in the audience again, and a big mahalo to Sarah Ruppenthal for her coverage of "Hollywood Arms."
This week, Maui theatergoers will have quite the trio of rich and profoundly funny productions to choose from, and it is conceivably possible to see all three this weekend before they close.
The latest offering from ProArts, and opening this weekend, is Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue." Although a little lesser known than Simon's other works, "Prisoner" is one of his most critically acclaimed plays. Originally produced in 1971, the play began Simon's great run of hit dramedies like "The Heartbreak Kid," "The Sunshine Boys," "The Goodbye Girl," and his monumental "Brighton Beach" trilogy. In 1971, The New York Times described Simon's growth with "Prisoner" as "a magnificent effort to part company with the mechanical, and his overall success stands as handsome proof that humor and honesty can be got into bed together."
John Peterson as Mel Edison and Jennifer Rose as his wife, Edna, in ProArts’ “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.”
JACK GRACE photo
The story of Mel Edison is certainly honest and easily relatable to everyone. Mel has a bad day, which turns into a series of misfortunes that drives him to the brink of insanity. He loses his job, his house is robbed (including the good whiskey), the sanitation workers are on strike filling the city of New York with mountains of garbage, there's a heat wave, an ongoing feud with a nasty neighbor, and his psychiatrist dies, owing Mel $23,000.
"Prisoner" has some of the finest monologues ever written by Simon, ripe with multiple hysterical neurotic rants for strong, middle-aged actors to shine. A favorite of mine relates to Mel's feud with the neighbor.
"I'm waiting for him. I'm just waiting for him. He's up there now, but one day he's gonna be down there, and I'm gonna be up here, and then we'll see. One cold, snowy day some son of a b---- in this building is gonna be buried under three feet of snow. They won't find him until the spring! They can get your clothes, Edna. They can get your clothes, your Valium, your television, your Red Label Whisky, your job, they can get everything. But they can't get your brains. That's my secret weapon - that and the snow."
The midlife crisis tale originally starred Peter Falk as Mel and Lee Grant as Mel's wife, the incredibly tolerant Edna. The success of the Broadway production resulted in a film version in 1975, starring Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft (plus a tiny cameo by Sylvester Stallone as a mugger).
At first, Mel (played by John Peterson in the ProArts production) attempts to keep his unemployment a secret from Edna (played by Jennifer Rose). Edna is happy to support and comfort Mel, but in time she can no longer put up with his ranting and begins to break down herself. In desperation, she enlists the aid of his siblings for an intervention.
The second act of "Prisoner" is what Simon does best - surround an "every man" with slightly crazy family members that inevitably make things worse. The characters of older brother Harry (Lee Garrow) and sisters Pauline (Marilyn Hirashima), Pearl (Beth Garrow) and Jesse (Barbara Sedano) should deliver some of the biggest laughs of the night, especially Harry's disinterest in a cup of coffee. In true Simon fashion, there is a realistic reconciliation. Mel calms down, and life will likely be better for him and Edna as a result of it all.
This Maui trio of plays about families that yell at each other all share one thing in common: the families never stop loving each other and they stick together. As long as you can laugh at familiar misfortune and meddling loved ones, you can't miss in finding a wonderful show featuring Maui's finest actors this weekend.
* ProArts presents Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," Friday through May 19 at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $20 per person. ProArts offers kamaaina night discounts this Saturday, plus May 9 and 16; cost is $17.50 per person for Hawaii residents. The show is directed by Kristi Scott. For tickets or more information, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartspacific.com.
By popular demand, Maui Academy of Performing Arts' hit comedy "Fresher Ahi," by Francis Tau'a and Derek Nakagawa, directed by David C. Johnston, and starring Kathy Collins, Nakagawa and Tau'a, will continue through Saturday. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 seniors and $12 students (18 and younger). Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.mauiacademy.org, by calling MAPA at 244-8760 or by visiting the customer service kiosk at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Also this week
Catch Filipino-American comedian Rex Navarrete Friday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Navarrete combines keen observational humor with a dead-on Filipino accent to create bits that leave locals laughing in the aisles - "If there is room," says Rex, who has sold out his last 14 appearances in Hawaii.
His comedy recordings "Badly Browned" and "Husky Boy" were best sellers on the Classified Records label and has just released a third record "Bastos." Navarrete will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the MACC's Castle Theater.
Tickets are $20, $30, $40 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents three dance performances for the entire family. The weekend opens with MAPA's annual dance recital at 2 p.m. Saturday, featuring dancers of all ages strutting their stuff in jazz, tap and hip-hop. At 1 p.m. Sunday, "The Little Mermaid Ballet" showcases more than 200 MAPA ballerinas in the famous Hans Christian Andersen story of a young mermaid and her handsome prince. That same evening at 7:30, "Moves" will feature MAPA's advanced dance students in an exciting dance showcase highlighting a variety of styles including jazz, hip hop and contemporary. In addition, this year's finale will feature guest artists Ampersand Dance Company. All performances are at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater.
General seating tickets are $15 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.