Neil Simon’s Bittersweet Comedy "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" Comes to the BTF Main Stage

Posted July 21, 2009

Stockbridge, MA – Berkshire Theatre Festival continues its 81st season of theatre that matters with The Prisoner of Second Avenue by world renowned playwright Neil Simon starting on July 21. Warner Shook will direct the cast of familiar faces and BTF newcomers in this Main Stage production. The cast features Tony nominees Veanne Cox (Caroline, or Change), Denny Dillon (My One And Only), Jeanne Paulsen (The Kentucky Cycle), and Alice Playten (Henry, Sweet Henry) alongside Broadway veterans Julian Gamble and Stephen DeRosa. The play tells the story of Mel and Edna Edison, a middle-aged couple living in New York, who find their luck is quickly deteriorating during a terrible heat wave and a garbage strike. When Mel cracks under the pressure, his family intervenes in an attempt to nurse him back to his old self, with predictably unpredictable results. Neil Simon presents a comical, and sometimes poignant, look at the pressures placed upon a working class family that ripples with his trademark crisp dialogue and quirky, hysterically memorable characters.

Stephen DeRosa, playing the role of Mel Edison, appeared last summer at BTF as Estragon in Waiting for Godot. He has also been seen at the Festival in Love! Valour! Compassion! as well as Lives of the Saints. He played Wilbur Turnblad in the Broadway production and first National tour of Hairspray. His other Broadway credits include Twentieth Century, Henry IV, and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Playing the role of Edna Edison will be Veanne Cox, whose Broadway credits include The Dinner Party, Company, and Smile. Jeanne Paulsen, well-known for her Broadway role in The Crucible, will be making her BTF debut as Jessie. She has previously worked with director Warner Shook in Faith Healer, Angels in America, and Last Night at Ballyhoo. Alice Playten, who was a part of the original Broadway companies of Oliver! and Hello Dolly!, will join the cast as Pearl. Julian Gamble will make his BTF debut as Harry Edison, and has appeared in several shows on Broadway including The Seagull, Democracy, and The Invention of Love.

Tony nominated actress Denny Dillon will replace the previously announced Cynthia Darlow. She was last seen at BTF in the musical Say Yes!. Her Broadway credits include Gypsy, The Skin of Our Teeth, Harold and Maude, My One And Only (Tony Nomination), and Enchanted April.

Tony nominated director Warner Shook makes his BTF directorial debut with The Prisoner of Second Avenue. He has directed The Kentucky Cycle and This is on Me on Broadway. For seven years, he was the Artistic Director of Seattle’s Intiman Theatre where he directed dozens of productions including Angels in America, The Little Foxes, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

The designers include: Scott Bradley, Scenic Designer; Laurie Churba, Costume Designer; Mary Louise Geiger, Lighting Designer; and Scott Killian, Sound Designer.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue will run from July 21 through August 8. The performance schedule will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Wednesday at 7pm, with matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm. Tickets range from $15 to $68. Single tickets are now available for purchase online at or by contacting the Festival Box Office at (413) 298-5576.

Opening Night/Press Night is Saturday, July 25 at 8pm. Press members may contact Jaime Davidson at (413) 298-5536 x14 or to request tickets.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue by Neil Simon Directed by Warner Shook Previews: July 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 Opening Night/Press Night: July 25 Closes: August 8

About Berkshire Theatre Festival Founded in 1928, Berkshire Theatre Festival is one of the oldest professional regional theatres in the United States and the longest-running cultural organization in the Berkshires. Now under the helm of Artistic Director and CEO Kate Maguire, BTF presents theatre that matters—world premieres, contemporary works, and classics that speak to who we are in our world today. The Main Stage (408 seats), cataloged by the National Register of Historic Places, was originally designed and built by Stanford White as the Stockbridge Casino in 1888. The mission of BTF’s second stage, the intimate Unicorn Theatre (122 seats), is to provide a home for emerging artists and new theatrical ideas. BTF’s education program, BTF PLAYS!, reaches over 10,000 children annually through school residencies, touring performances, and summer performance training and writing programs. During the summer months BTF opens its doors to over 50 administrative, acting, and technical interns and apprentices. For more information about Berkshire Theatre Festival, please visit

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