Theatre Mirror Reviews"Laughter on The 23rd Floor"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Laughter on The 23rd Floor"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Hovey Players current show is Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor". Take a topnotch Neil Simon script, cast one of the best actor's around in the leading role, surround him with a tight ensemble cast and you have "Laughter on the 23rd Floor".Simon's show takes place in 1953, when he was a script writer for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows. This riotous comedy is about the hilarious antics of all the writers during the rise and fall of this TV show. Neil Simon recreates the mayhem, neuroses, nonstop gags and constant one-upmanship of a team of brilliantly funny social misfits trying to create comedy in the era of the Red Scare and network interference.This talented cast under the direction of David Fisher, leads the audience into a multitude of laughter and in typical Simon fashion, a touching finale which brings the cast a thunderous ovation.

David infuses the show with the madcap energy that is necessary to pull it off. He also casts the show beautifully, too. The Sid Caesar character in this show is called Max Prince and he is played expertly by Bill Stambaugh. This man is an excellent dramatic actor but in this show he becomes a master of comic gestures, facial expressions and superior line delivery. Bill is a powerhouse and his energy never wavers. He does a topnotch Brando impersonation in the "Julius Caesar" movie skit, is a laugh riot as he describes himself playing the Statue of Liberty with bird shit and excels at the physical comedy of Max, too. Bill wrestles one of the writers, does a spit-take in the face of one of the writers and punches holes in the walls. He gives a tour-de-force performance, making this a must see show of this season. Bill always gives 100% in any role I've seen him in from "Ragtime" in 2003, to "I Hate Hamlet" the following year, to "The Shape of Things'' two years ago. Bravo!

The Mel Brooks role is called Ira in the show. Jason Rutledge does a great job as the wacky character. Ira is the hypochondriac writer who supposedly suffers a heart attack, a stroke and a brain tumor. Some of his funniest bits are when he writes, "I have a brain tumor on the office wall" and after Max fires him, Ira rips his joke out of the script and tries to swallow it. Patrick Malarski plays Lucas, the Neil Simon role. He narrates the show, introducing the other characters. Patrick converses with the audience and the other actors convincingly, showing his strength as an actor. The two scene stealers of the night are Glenn Wakeley as Milt and Andrew Boncoddo as Val. Glenn makes Milt, a whirlwind funnyman. He cracks jokes with ease, adding to the high level of merriment. Glenn's flamboyant character has the best one liners in the show and he makes them all count. Andrew uses a flawless Russian accent in the part. His mispronunciation of fuck is hilarious and leaves the audience in stitches all night long. Val pronounces it focking.

The lone female writer, Carol is played by Alison McCann. She makes her one of the guys, eating bagels and dropping the f bomb profusely. Alison does a great job in this role especially in her pregnancy scene as well as in her learning how to say and later missing saying the f word. These are her stand out scenes. Her standing and sitting while pregnant are not the be missed either and her whispering black list is a hoot, too. The boy wonder writer, Kenny is played by Mark Mason and lone Irish writer, Brian is played by Gordon Ellis. They each have their funny moments, too. They include Gordon's constant smoking and coughing as well as the shoe betting scene with Ira. The shoes end up being thrown out a window on 57th Street. I last reviewed Gordon in "The Shape of Things". Last but not least is the harried secretary, Helen played by Rebecca Mae Davis. She is very funny in the attempted seduction scene with Milt at the Christmas party where she finally admits she wishes to be a writer. I have wonderful memories of this show,having directed it back in 2004. So for a look back at the 1950's where the more things change the more they seem to stay the same, be sure to catch "Laughter on the 23rd Floor". The TV big wigs still don't understand audiences are intelligent enough to understand television without them having to dumb things down.We also learn that Joe McCarthy got his comeuppance that year, too.

"Laughter on The 23rd Floor" (11 - 26 May)
@ Abbott Memorial Theatre, 9 Spring Street @ Joel's Way, WALTHAM MA

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