LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR by Carol Kaufman Segal
Neil Simon has proved successful as a playwright, screenwriter, author, and let us not forget his time as a joke writer for television. During one season he had four successful plays running on Broadway at one time, and he is the recipient of more Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. In 1983 he became the only living playwright to have a theatre in New York named in his honor. At this season you can see the revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America playing at the Neil Simon Theatre at 250 W. 52nd St., in New York.
Before Neil Simon became the success that he turned out to be, he got his first break as a writer for Sid Caesar’s and Imogene Coca’s 1950 hit TV series, Your Show of Shows, He was hired to join a writing pool that consisted of Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Selma Diamond, and others who also became well-known and successful. This time in his life was the impetus that sparked the play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, (written in 1993) that is playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank.
The play takes place in the helter-skelter offices where the writing pool works under an autocratic boss, Max (Pat Towne). The group consists of Brian (John Rose Bowie), Ira (Jeff Campanella), Lanisa Renee Frederick (Carol), Jason Grasl (Lucas), Cornelius Jones, Jr. (Kenny), Jessica Joy (Helen), Ty Mayberry (Milt), and Roland Rusinek (Val). Lucas is the newest to join the pool, and each character has a problem of his/her own. All are, supposedly, based on real people.
Years ago I had seen this play and remembered that I had enjoyed it and was looking forward to the opportunity of seeing it again. I love everything that I have ever seen that Neil Simon has written. I guess I have to say that this is probably the lesser of anything he has ever created. Seeing it this time did not give me the same reaction. The play has no plot, just a great deal of ruckus going on in the office, and it seemed like a lot of flap stick comedy. I wondered how they could ever get any writing done! The good point of the production is the performances by the actors. It is obvious that they all have wonderful comedic talent. If you enjoy a lot of chaos on stage, you will love it!
Laughter on the 23rd Floor is directed by Michael A. Shepperd. It is playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank. Performance are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM, through April 22 (additional performance Sunday, April 8 at 7 PM). Tickets are available by phone at (818) 955-8101, or online at www.garrymarshalltheatre.org.