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Laughter on the 23rd Floor

a Comedy
by Neil Simon

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 5166

SHOWING : November 03, 2017 - November 19, 2017



Inspired by the youthful experience of the playwright as a staff writer on the Sid Caesar-starrting Your Show of Shows, with all the attendant comic drama as the harried writing staff frantically scrambles to top each other with gags while competing for the attention of star madman Max Prince.

Director Jeremy King
Ira Stone Loren Collins
Max Prince Jerry Knoff
Milt Fields Paul Milliken
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by heatherkapp
Monday, November 6, 2017
Hilarity ensues! Max Prince (Jerry Knoff) is a ticking-time bomb of humor and unexpected antics. The entire cast of writers are quick witted, smart, and hilarious. Bridger Trent is a true standout as the newest addition to the writing team. The lighting effects were perfect for accentuating monologues. Paul Milliken and Brittany Walker have quirky chemistry on point. Loren Collins delights as an anxiety ridden hypochondriac. The costumes and props were perfect. The blocking and direction is superb, and that is saying a lot with a cast as large as this script demands. Another incredible Lionheart show. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Laughter in Every Seat of the House
by playgoer
Monday, November 6, 2017
Neil Simon’s "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" is inspired by his time working as a writer for Sid Caesar’s "Show of Shows" alongside Mel Brooks and other top-notch comedy writers. It’s a tremendously funny play, with a cast of wacky characters and with jokes and funny lines abounding. When the cast is filled with as fine a set of actors as at Lionheart, the comedy comes through with flying colors and the laughs are pretty much non-stop.

Richard Diaz’s set design makes full use of the width of the Lionheart stage, with doors down stage right and up left. The furniture includes a weighty desk, a bookcase, a coffee station, and a round table surrounded by matching chairs that may not be period (1953), but that certainly have a mid-century feel. The walls are partitioned with vertical black stripes, with one center section that has a non-working clock protruding a tiny bit. Since breaking a hole in the wall is an important action in the play, and since the hole must be repaired for each performance, my initial thought was that this protruding section was where the hole would be. It’s not. Instead, the hole is on one side of the set, where the right-angled wall can’t be seen clearly by all sections of the audience.

Gary White’s lighting design isn’t complex, with general lighting the norm. We do, however, have spotlight effects for narration monologues and a light-up Christmas tree. Rebecca Spring’s costumes do a wonderful job of setting the period and adding visual interest. Carla Scruggs’ props too add to the visual appeal.

Bob Peterson’s sound design isn’t complex either, but starts the show off with a news recording about Joseph McCarthy and the blacklist, the NBC theme, and some music from blacklisted artists. Although the soundscape isn’t complex, it’s effective. All technical elements are designed to support the play itself, without drawing unnecessary attention to themselves.

Jeremy King has done a terrific job of blocking the large cast on the relatively small stage and of eliciting fine performances all around. Some are funnier than others, with Hannah Musall as Helen being the least funny of all (which is sorta the whole point of her character). A few are over the top, but in ways driven by character and not by oversized actorly egos. This is a true ensemble piece, and everyone gets a chance to shine.

Accents are wonderful throughout. Not everyone has one, and some of the New York inflections are slight, but they are consistent from start to finish. Grant Carden has a glorious Russian-Yiddish accent as head writer Val Slotsky, and Alex Parkinson delights with his Irish brogue. Face it, everyone delights.

Loren Collins’ gives us a hypochondriac Ira Stone who demands attention at every turn. Paul Milliken makes Milt Fields a natural funnyman who has to convert everyone else’s comments into a straight line for his punch lines (quantity over quality!), but shows humorous vulnerability after making a wardrobe faux pas. Bridger Trent centers the play as new hire Lucas Brickman, and his real-life father, Jackson Trent, brings a cool California vibe as Kenny Franks. Brittany Walker may not be a rubber-faced comedienne as Carol Wyman, but she ably fills the role of den mother to this group of foul-mouthed jokesters.

The plot revolves around Max Prince (Jerry Knoff), the Sid Caesar of the comedy show the writers work for. We don’t get to see much of his on-screen behavior other than rehearsal for a Marlon Brando "Julius Caesar" parody. His off-screen behavior, though, screams "dysfunction." Mr. Knoff’s portrayal leans more to the ponderous than the manic, but he definitely gives the impression of a boisterous boss who makes others tremble in his presence, yet inspires tremendous loyalty.

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor" may have can’t-miss comic lines, but that doesn’t mean it’s a can’t-miss comedy. Without distinct, powerful performances all around, it could easily fade into mediocrity. And Lionheart’s production is not mediocre at all. It’s a funny, funny show being given a fine production that results in laughs, laughs, laughs. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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