The Prisoner of Second Avenue – Reviews Round-up

The Prisoner of Second AvenueThe Old Vic’s first adventure north of the river under the stewardship of Kevin Spacey has not been a critical smash, but pleased the critics sufficiently to be a respectable launch pad for further projects.

The show’s performances, notably the two leads Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl, and direction fared better with the critics than Neil Simon’s play.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Vaudeville Theatre is a revival of Neil Simon’s 1971 comedy starring  In the show Goldblum stars as Mel Edison, a man at breaking point. In the heat of a New York City summer his air-conditioning has broken, his neighbours won’t shut-up, his job is hanging by a thread and there are a gang of burglars on the prowl.

Terry Johnson, flush from his Tony success for La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway, has directed the show.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Vaudeville Theatre in London

The Guardian, Michael Billington

★★★

“You can see why now seems a good time to revive Neil Simon’s 1971 hit play: it deals with economic meltdown, urban angst, a city on the edge of crisis… But, for all the quality of Goldblum’s performance and Terry Johnson’s production, there is something too cosy about Simon’s approach to his subject: he’s like a man who peers into an abyss and then nervously backs off.”

“What is especially impressive about Goldblum is that he implies Mel’s mania without resorting to clawing the walls… thanks to Goldblum’s skill and Johnson’s directorial tact, Mel emerges as a man who, in being deprived of a job, acquires the weary patience of Job.”

“But, although the play is expertly done, Simon ultimately shies away from the logic of his story: if Mel is the woeful victim of recession, Simon is himself the prisoner of Broadway feel-good convention.”

The Times, Libby Purves

★★★

“Neil Simon’s 1971 hit is mainly and beautifully about married love.”
“Ruehl’s genius lies in convincing us with utter charm that she loves him mad or sane, and will somehow meet him at whatever level he reaches.”
“It does feel a bit dated… And, truth be told, it’s an odd-shaped play. After an hour as a two-hander the middle of the second act abruptly introduces Mel’s three sisters and brother, with no prior warning but with a back-story of family relationships.”

The Observer, Killian Fox

★★★

“Their [Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl] performances seem out of sync with the rhythms of the play. Comedic mannerisms jut out in all the wrong directions.”
“It does raise laughs, but they’d need a lot more kick to register in any relevant way.”

The Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish

★★★

“What the evening delivers in clever one-liners, it lacks in corresponding emotional thoroughness.”
“Still, as a vehicle for Goldblum’s innate comic abilities this revival more than earns its keep and it’s nice to see the star back on the London stage.”
“For her part, essentially required to mop the fevered brow of a redundant mid-life male before going a bit beserk herself, Ruehl achieves great variety as Edna.”

The Independent, Michael Coveney

★★★

“A bleak and mostly cheerless entertainment.”
“Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl in their prime and on blistering, sardonic form.”
“Terry Johnson’s production does its best to keep the laughs coming in spite of everything, but the flipside of Simon’s writing habit, his Woody Allen mode, can’t sustain the dramatic energy of a play that finally resorts to unsuitably pallid metaphor.”

Average rating score for this production:
AVERAGE STAR RATING

REVIEWS ROUND-UP

"You can see why now seems a good time to revive Neil Simon's 1971 hit play: it deals with economic meltdown, urban angst, a city on the edge of crisis... But, for all the quality of Goldblum's performance and Terry Johnson's production, there is something too cosy about Simon's approach to his subject: he's like a man who peers into an abyss and then nervously backs off."
"What is especially impressive about Goldblum is that he implies Mel's mania without resorting to clawing the walls... thanks to Goldblum's skill and Johnson's directorial tact, Mel emerges as a man who, in being deprived of a job, acquires the weary patience of Job."
"But, although the play is expertly done, Simon ultimately shies away from the logic of his story: if Mel is the woeful victim of recession, Simon is himself the prisoner of Broadway feel-good convention." - The Guardian
"Neil Simon's 1971 hit is mainly and beautifully about married love."
"Ruehl's genius lies in convincing us with utter charm that she loves him mad or sane, and will somehow meet him at whatever level he reaches."
"It does feel a bit dated... And, truth be told, it's an odd-shaped play. After an hour as a two-hander the middle of the second act abruptly introduces Mel's three sisters and brother, with no prior warning but with a back-story of family relationships." - The Times
"Their [Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl] performances seem out of sync with the rhythms of the play. Comedic mannerisms jut out in all the wrong directions."
"It does raise laughs, but they'd need a lot more kick to register in any relevant way." - The Observer
"What the evening delivers in clever one-liners, it lacks in corresponding emotional thoroughness."
"Still, as a vehicle for Goldblum's innate comic abilities this revival more than earns its keep and it's nice to see the star back on the London stage."
"For her part, essentially required to mop the fevered brow of a redundant mid-life male before going a bit beserk herself, Ruehl achieves great variety as Edna." - The Telegraph
"A bleak and mostly cheerless entertainment."
"Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl in their prime and on blistering, sardonic form."
"Terry Johnson's production does its best to keep the laughs coming in spite of everything, but the flipside of Simon's writing habit, his Woody Allen mode, can't sustain the dramatic energy of a play that finally resorts to unsuitably pallid metaphor." - The Independent

Date: 15 July 2010
Written by:
Tags: , , , , , , ,

1 thought on “The Prisoner of Second Avenue – Reviews Round-up”

  1. In London for just two days, my Australian friend and I were lucky enough to get tickets for the press showing of ‘Prisoner’, and we considered it a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theatre. The two leads, Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl, gave a masterclass in how to deal with Neil Simon’s American-Jewish humour, and while the play might have dipped a little during the appearance of the other characters, it was, never the less, a night to remember. 5 stars definitely.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top