Laughter On The 23rd Floor
June 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 2005

Click to see show poster.
Cast (in order of appearance)
Lucas BrickmanJeff Chirico
Milt FieldsChip Rohrbach
Val SkotskyGary Boyer
Brian DoyleLarry Harris
Kenny FranksChip Williams
Carol WymanRebecca Pieper
Max PrincePat Kelly
HelenBecki Wenhold
Ira StonePeter Sanchez
Production Staff
DirectorRalph Montesano
Assistant DirectorChip Rohrbach
Stage ManagerCheryl Wenhold
Set Design & ConstructionPeter Sanchez
Lighting DesignDan Lewis
Technical OperatorMarc Montesano

Cast Photos
Click on any image for a larger version, if available.

'Laughter' tickles funnybones at Pennsylvania Playhouse

Of The Morning Call

At the Pennsylvania Playhouse, the laughter was so loud you could hear it across the street. I don't know what was playing over there.

Fortunately, there are better gags than that one in Neil Simon's ''Laughter on the 23rd Floor,'' now at the Bethlehem theater. They flow freely in this story about the writing staff of Sid Caesar's ''Your Show of Shows'' television classic.

The liberal use of the ''f---'' and ''s---'' words are surprising for a Simon play (it opened on Broadway in 1993, decades later than his more familiar works). But other Simon trademarks are here. He mixes shtick with seriousness and schmaltz. And he uses a fictional portrayal of himself, occasionally addressing the audience to explain characters or set a scene.

As the play opens, Lucas Brickman (Jeff Chirico, based on the real life Simon) has just begun to work for Max Prince (Pat Kelly). The writers drift in one by one: Milt Field (Chip Rohrbach), who distinguishes himself by his outlandish wardrobe; Val Skolsky (Gary Boyer), the Russian emigre and head writer; Brian Doyle (Larry Harris), who brags about selling yet unwritten screenplays; the straight-laced by comparison Kenny Franks (Chip Williams); secretary and wanna-be comedy writer Helen (Rebecca Wenhold), and Carol Wyman (Rebecca Pieper), who reluctantly adjusts to the male-oriented atmosphere.

The gags flow throughout. An example: ''He's accused of being a card-carrying communist.'' ''He had cards printed?''

Serious elements are also introduced, as the McCarthy witch-hunt has begun, and NBC is interfering with Prince's show.

After Prince shows up, he turns out to be more insane than his writers, punching holes in the wall and ranting about, well, everything. Actually one writer might be crazier: the always late, hypochondriac Ira Stone (Peter Sanchez).

The cast does a great job with these sometimes hard roles. Kelly does not quite have the bombast you would expect of the real-life Caesar, but he deftly captures both his hyperactive tension and his love for his writers. Sanchez does a wonderful Woody Allen, who wrote for Caesar. Simon based Sanchez's character on Mel Brooks, but that should not matter unless you have strong feelings about the Allen vs. Brooks film controversy.

Director Ralph Montesano has created a show that puts the audience in the palm of his hand. They must get heavy after awhile.

''Laughter on the 23rd Floor,'' 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 19, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem. Tickets: $18; $15, seniors and children under 19 Friday and Sunday only. 610-865-6665, .

Dave Howell is a freelance writer.

'Laughter' is a nostalgic ride back to the funny '50s

By Myra Yellin Outwater
Special to The Morning Call

''Laughter on the 23rd Floor,'' Neil Simon's poignant recollection of his days as a junior writer for Sid Caesar, takes its audiences back to the 1950s and a time when Caesar's ''Your Show of Shows'' reigned supreme on television. Set in 1953, the show which is being presented by the Pennsylvania Playhouse, is told by Simon's alter ego Lucas Brickman (Jeff Chirico), who outlines the day-to-day antics of the writing team on the ''Max Prince Show.'' The play focuses on the moment when Max (played by Pat Kelly) is faced with the pressures of rising ''McCarthyism'' and network executives who want to decrease his writing staff and cut his ''too-smart'' 90-minute show to an hour so that they can chase after the ''Leave It to Beaver'' and ''Father Knows Best'' audience.

''Laughter'' combines Simon's wit and theatrical nostalgia in a fast-paced evening of one liners and dramatic comic confrontations. Simon's characters were modeled on his fellow writers — Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Lucille Kallen, Larry Gelbart and Mel Tolkin — all of whom worked for Caesar and were among the highest paid writers in America.

Says director Ralph Montesano: ''Sid Caesar was known to have had a volatile temper and was always exploding. He was also a very controlling man and watching Pat [Kelly] play Max is great fun. Pat is very funny and he is doing a great job at trying to control his anger.''

Pete Sanchez plays Ira, the Woody Allen character.

''Pete is absolutely authentic,'' says Montesano. ''From the beginning you recognize Woody as Pete creates this character of this always late Jewish hypochondriac who is always complaining about viruses.''

''Laughter on the 23rd Floor,'' 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday, through June 19, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem. Tickets: $18; $15, seniors and students Friday and Sunday. 610-865-6665, .

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