Welcome back to 1953 when Sid Caeser's Your Show of Shows was one of the best shows on TV. The Granite Theatre's current show is Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" which is based on his real life adventures when he was a script writer on Caeser's show. Simon calls the TV show in his script, The Max Prince Show which like Caeser's show was a 90 minute variety show. The crazy antics of the writers delivering some of Simon's wittiest one liners show the rise and fall of this TV show. It shows how NBC wants to dumb down the show for their audiences to understand what is happening, a practice which is rampant on all the shows on TV in 2004. However this script leads the audience into much laughter and shows how intelligent well thought out comedy should still entertain current day audiences. First time director, Jude Pescatello who has been acting for over 35 years in over 100 productions, keeps this comedy moving with quick paced line delivery and blocking to sustain your interest from start to finish with his talented 9 member cast.
Steve Bartholomew tackles the huge role of Max Prince and shows the character's descent into a total nervous breakdown by show's end. His manic energy is shown by his bellowing, ranting and raving while climbing on the desk, smashing the phone, punching holes in the wall and fighting with one of the writers. Steve's over the top performance wins him many laughs along the way. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Michael Jepson who plays Ira Stone, the hypochondriac writer. His perfect impersonation of Woody Allen whom the role is based on is hilarious. The description of his many ailments and problems including a heart attack, a stroke and a brain tumor. Michael's many humorous moments include writing I have a brain tumor on the office wall, the shoe fight with the only Irish writer, his physical fights with Max including ripping the script apart and trying to eat his joke. Kudos on a topnotch performance.
Brian Olsen plays Lucas, the Neil Simon role. He also narrates the show, introducing other characters. Lucas is the wide-eyed innocent thrown into this loony bin, only to become just like them when the show ends. Another scene stealer is John Brennan as Milt, the womanizing writer who cheats on his wife. He has some of Simon's best one liners in this show and he delivers them with ease. (He also gets to wear a couple of funny costumes including a white Panama suit.) The Russian writer, Val who mispronounces many words in a funny way is played by Ted Gavriluk. Ted usually plays villainous roles but he shows he can handle the nicer, funnier ones, too. The lone female writer, Carol is played Michelle Messina. Carol says after five years of writing with these writers, she feels she is one of the guys. Her funniest moment is when she starts puffing on a cigar. Frank Pendola tackles the role of Brian, the lone Irishman writer who smokes constantly. The coughing and shoe argument scene with Ira are amusing moments for his character. Arthur Pignataro plays Kenny who has some funny lines but usually tries to keep Max from getting them thrown into jail by insulting Joe McCarthy or by walking out on their NBC contracts.Rounding out this cast is Brittney Duncan-McGoldrick as Helen, the secretary who is constantly running in and out of the office deliving scripts and messages. So for a look back at the fun filled 1950's and a topnotch Neil Simon script, be sure to catch "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" in Westerly before time runs out.