Archikulture Digest

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

By Neil Simon

Directed by Dave Russell

Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL</strong>

It’s rare to see so many actors and so many jokes on one stage at one time. Like most authors, Simon writes about himself, he’s just a bit more open tonight about being his own omniscient narrator. This exercise rakes us back to his days writing for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows”, a snappy comedy show that was way too smart of television. Simon’s avatar is Lucas (Connor Marisco) a young writer on new hire probation. His boss is the sometimes addled Max Prince (Philip Nolen), he’s confused by pills and booze yet is still furious about Joe McCarthy and ready to do battle with NBC, mano-a-mano. Nolan is king of the slow burn; he never quite gets smoke to come out his ears, but it would have been a gag completely in character. The other writers rattle the cage bars of their own personal reality, it’s a brilliant collaboration yet completely chaotic to those on the outside. Tim Williams plays Val, the expatriate Russian and apparent head babysitter. Has the accent down, and leverages his Russian inflected “I don’t give a fok” attitude that demonstrates humor is just a side effect of conflict. The man with the Golden Timing is Uber-Yiddish Milt (Steve Purnick,) his is a knack for hitting a jokes precise nanosecond of maximum laughter, and not just in the show; he was by far the funniest man in the talk back. Brian (Brandon Roberts) is the token Irishman, he’s funny ever time he speaks and has the nattiest hair piece of the show. Then there calmly foul mouthed but pregnant Carol (Heather Leonardo) she and David Almeida’s Kenny form that calm axis of rationality that every sitcom needs, they are the exact opposite of Glenn Glover’s Ira, a Mel Brooks stand-in who was flat on his back bouncing on a table as the others pounded him. There’s one outsider in the group, its bleach blonde Helen (Robyn Kelly) who want to write comedy, but somehow lacks the spark. How Ms. Kelly succeeds in NOT making jokes is beyond me; that in itself is hysterical. Is there a message here? Nothing too significant – writing jobs are insecure, the networks will never understand “art” and good times pass quickly while bad time persist. But damn, there’s a lot of gags here, and they ALL connect.

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