Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 24, 2014

Laughter On The 23rd Floor

New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through June 28, 2014
by K.J. Rogowski

New Century Theatre's production of Neil Simon's "Laughter On The 23rd Floor" is living, laughing tableau of the quick witted and frenetic lives of seven joker writers and their manic and unstable TV star boss, Max Prince, during the golden age of live television. The daily trials and tribulations of churning out yet another stellar script for live programming each week are only topped by their own personal frustrations and foibles.

Their world is confined to the 23rd floor, a classic 50's office, designed by Emily Singer, complete with water cooler, typewriters, and lots of danish. Lucas is the new kid who has to prove himself both as a comedy writer, and as a match for the razor-like wit of his six coworkers, who see every issue as pure comic fodder for their verbal barrages. Then there's Milt, whose daily wardrobe challenges rule his day; and Val the Russian, who takes speech lessons to learn to perfect his English "F-bombs." Ira is dying every day from something exotic, and Brian is certain that today is the day that some movie studio will discover his yet un-written script. Helen is just trying to get pregnant, and Kenny is the somewhat stable glue that holds them together.

Their story, is a bitter sweet one, because while having to deal with a neurotic comic genius boss, and their own personal problems, there looms the real life threat of the television network bosses who see the changing future of what the American viewing public wants.

The play rolls out like an actual variety show, with Lucas as host, addressing the audience like a TV M.C. Each character gets their own entrance and time to feature their unique brand of comedy. The troupe comes together in take-offs and skits, playing off each other like a pack of cartoon pinballs, cracking wise and working the laughs to top each other. Director Sam Rush takes full advantage of this good old, almost vaudeville like, machine gun humor, with characters jockeying to top one another. The laughs on both the 23rd floor, and in the audience, come fast and furious, making for and evening of pure fun.