Laughter on the 23rd Floor is set in New York City in the 1950’s during the Golden Age of television. Inspired by playwright Neil Simon’s early days as a writer for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows, the entire play takes place in the office of fictional Max Prince and his staff of comedy writers. How perfect that this play is being done at the elegant Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, as Marshall was also a comedy writer in the old days.
This production, directed by Michael A. Shepperd, is flawless. The comedy is fast-paced and clean, the actors spot-on with their timing. Even the serious moments, such as the references to Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch hunts, are done with taste, and, while important, do not overshadow the reason we all came to see a Neil Simon work: to laugh.
Each character is based on Simon’s real life experience. Lucas, the narrator and newest member of the writing staff, is Simon’s alter ego. Expertly played by John Jason Grasl, he is likeable and seems to have fewer psychoses than his officemates. Pat Towne is perfect as Max, and commands the stage (as he should). At the Christmas party, when he gets drunk and announces to his crew that their show has been cancelled, he does it with as much finesse as one can, under the circumstances.
Perhaps not Simon’s greatest offering, it is still well worth seeing, and the Garry Marshall Theatre is a fantastic venue.
For tickets to “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” call the Box Office at (818) 955-8101 or visit GarryMarshallTheatre.org. The Garry Marshall Theatre is located at 4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank.