Laughter on the 23rd Floor is a roman a clef of Neil Simon’s early days creating humor for “Your Show of Shows,” a Saturday-night spectacular that employed such later headliners as Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Simon, and Lucille Kallen and co-starred the famous team of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. This story of TV comedy writers in the 1950s trying make a living and have fun at the same time certainly points up the the truth of the old saying about comedy. Timing and delivery are everything.
The first act, as put on at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre last Saturday night, suffered from a minimal exercise of both. Too many punch lines were mumbled or swallowed or spoken upstage, and the energy was generally low. Nonetheless, it did enthuse some of the audience. And, it must also be said that David Klionsky, entering as Max Prince, raised the vitality onstage considerably, with his over-the-top rendition of a very Sid Caesar-like character.
The second act attained more of the vivacity that comedy requires. Director Jon Todd brought high ambitions to his efforts and, with a bit more rehearsing, might even have achieved his purpose fully. In any case, he has raised a show that is enjoyable and funny, but doesn’t meet its potential. As the run progresses it is likely this ensemble will imbue itself with the sparkle the play deserves.
The set, representing an office with space for a work table, a fainting couch, a telephone stand, a coat rack, and a second level with a desk is the creation of Todd Houseknecht. It is perfect, including a wall that has a story of its own. And Rachel McKay garbs the cast in excellent period costumes of the early Eisenhower era.
Larry Evans is hilarious as Ira, the hypochondriac who always arrives late announcing his new fatal malady. Val, the lead writer who is based on Mel Tolkin, who was, later on, the story editor of “All in the Family,” is played with aplomb by Mikey West.
Liz Webb glistens as the group secretary, Helen. Commendable work is also done by Lazarus Simmons, Kirsten Elhert, Jonathan King, Ryan Ladue, and Mike Anderson.
The North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR at 8 p.m. Jan. 30 and 31, 3 p.m. Feb. 1, 8 p.m. Feb. 6 and 7, and 3 p.m. Feb. 8 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $16.52 ($13.41 students and seniors), including fees.
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/724078.
SHOW: http://www.nract.org/upcoming-productions/neil-simon-s-laughter-on-the-23rd-floor and https://www.facebook.com/events/360274060813510/.
2015 SHOWS: http://www.nract.org/upcoming-productions.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993 Broadway comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2809/laughter-on-the-23rd-floor-neil-simon (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=5292 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughter_on_the_23rd_Floor (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: https://stagedirection.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/laughter-on-the-23rd-floor-study-guide/ (Stage Direction).
Neil Simon (Bronx, NY-born playwright and screenwriter): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7879 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Simon (Wikipedia).
Laughter on the 23rd Floor (2001 made-for-television movie): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0248955/ (Internet Movie Database).
Jon Todd (Raleigh director): https://www.facebook.com/todd.jon (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.