Wright has a canny ability to evoke Mel’s inner rage, which hovers right near the boiling point almost constantly. I swear I could feel my own blood pressure rising just watching him. And yet, he remains thoroughly likable in the midst of his despicable behavior, as Wright never loses sight of the human core that makes Mel’s frustrations completely understandable.
Allgood is similarly outstanding as the sympathetic wife — a character who could kind of turn into a doormat for all the concessions she makes for her raving husband, but instead comes across as strong, decent, and maybe a little more frustrated than she lets on.
Matthew Smucker’s scenic design creates a functional apartment space in ACT’s Allen theater in the round, complete with an admirable attention to detail. (Even the barely visible exterior of the front door has the apartment number on it.) A circle of period-specific TV cabinets that descend from the ceiling for several comical news interludes is a nice touch.
Deb Trout’s costume design seems a little muddled, with some pieces evoking the period perfectly (Mel’s sisters’ clothing in particular) while others are curiously anachronistic (Mel wears an obviously modern Kangol hat in one scene).
The Prisoner of Second Avenue ultimately favors a softer edge, but Simon’s play features enough bite to keep things interesting. Even if it didn’t, I’m pretty sure watching Wright and Allgood would’ve more than made up for it.
The show runs through May 29. Tickets start at $37.50 for adults, and are available at ACT’s website.