‘Laugh­ter’ is per­fectly chore­ographed chaos

Albuquerque Journal - - ARTS - BY MATTHEW YDE FOR THE JOUR­NAL

Odd as it may sound, while watch­ing Neil Si­mon’s 1993 com­edy “Laugh­ter on the 23rd Floor,” I was re­minded of David Mamet, es­pe­cially “Glen­garry Glen Ross,” which was writ­ten in 1984 but made into a movie the year be­fore Si­mon’s play pre­miered on Broad­way. Both plays are about ag­gres­sive work­ing men and take place in the room where the men work. Mamet also has a predilec­tion for the F-word, and I don’t re­call an­other Si­mon play in which his char­ac­ters use the F-word so vo­cif­er­ously, or even at all.

Neil Si­mon died last Au­gust, but Adobe Theater is not pro­duc­ing “Laugh­ter” to com­mem­o­rate his pass­ing. They do a lot of Neil Si­mon, about one play per sea­son. I’ve seen “The Odd Cou­ple,” “The Sun­shine Boys” and “Come Blow Your Horn” at Adobe and liked them all, but never have I seen Neil Si­mon done — any­where — with such skill and blis­ter­ing en­ergy as di­rec­tor Colleen Neary McClure’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion of “Laugh­ter on the 23rd Floor” at the Adobe Theater.

What makes the show so good is the pre­cise char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and the free­dom given to the ac­tors to take things as far as they can pos­si­bly go, and with these guys that’s pretty far. Such free­dom is not a li­cense to chaos, but rather per­fectly chore­ographed chaos. McClure’s sym­met­ri­cal com­po­si­tions, her ex­quis­ite fram­ing and sense of move­ment within the frame per­fectly com­ple­ment her ex­tra­or­di­nary gift with ac­tors. The mad­ness here is com­posed with an al­most clas­si­cal sense of beauty.

The play re­volves around char­ac­ter Max Prince, the star of a 1950s tele­vi­sion com­edy that the pro­duc­ers at NBC feel is too in­tel­li­gent for the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. They want to dumb things down. And so, the bud­get is slashed, the length of the show cut down, and it’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore they can­cel the show al­to­gether.

Matt Heath plays Max with manic en­ergy and stac­cato ges­tic­u­la­tions, fu­ri­ously pac­ing the stage like a wild an­i­mal, cigar in mouth, wasted out of his mind on pills and booze. His phys­i­cal and vo­cal rhythms in this show are so un­char­ac­ter­is­tic that quite frankly I did not know it was him un­til I looked at the pro­gram dur­ing in­ter­mis­sion, and I have seen Heath in at least a half-dozen plays. It’s a tour de force per­for­mance, and the rest of the cast is on the same level.

Si­mon’s play is au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, a dra­matic pre­sen­ta­tion of his days writ­ing for the Sid Cae­sar show in the early days of tele­vi­sion. Henry Ben­der plays Lu­cas, the ju­nior writer on the show and Si­mon’s al­ter-ego as well as the show’s nar­ra­tor. Joe Feld­man plays Ira, a hypochon­driac sup­pos­edly based on Mel Brooks. His mad­cap over-thetop per­for­mance is bril­liant and hi­lar­i­ous.

Dan Ware and Ron Bronit­sky also de­liver per­fectly cal­i­brated comic per­for­mances.

But re­ally, this is en­sem­ble play­ing at its finest, and the en­tire cast is to be ap­plauded. The night I saw the show, an im­por­tant sound cue was dropped (the tele­phone was sup­posed to ring), and the ac­tors, never drop­ping char­ac­ter, han­dled it with bril­liant im­pro­vi­sa­tional skill. This is a first-rate pro­duc­tion.

“Laugh­ter on the 23rd Floor” is play­ing through Feb. 24 at Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth NW. Go to ado­bethe­ater.org or call 898-9222 for reser­va­tions.

The Adobe Theater is stag­ing Neil Si­mon’s “Laugh­ter on the 23rd Floor.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.