DC Theatre Scene: Laughter on the 23rd Floor

You want funny? Keegan Theatre has funny. Laughter on the 23rd Floor. They killed it, nailed it, knocked it out of the park.

… Nobody in the “modern” era, that would be NOBODY, has written more or better funny than Neil Simon.”

The laughs at the Keegan come out faster than the burgers from the grill at Hamburger Haven in the clutches of a midnight munchies run.

… Let the superlatives begin with Ray Ficca’s hilarious portrayal of Max Prince, aka Sid Caesar. Ficca looks a lot like Caesar, and takes full advantage of the similarities. He brings down the house on more than one occasion with simple yet elegant changes in his facial expressions or his manic and remarkably true to Caesar movement and gestures.

He elicits gales of laughter at the beginning of the second act over the course of a five minute scene during which he speaks perhaps three whole sentences. And his Sid Caesar send up of Marlon Brando is worth the price of at least two admissions.”

Bradley Smith as the Russian-born head writer, Val, at any other time or place could easily steal the show. His only problem here is that he is matched up against Ficca and several other very fine actors who know their way around comedy. Smith as Val and John Loughney as Lucas, the Simon character who also acts as a narrator, provide anchor points that allow Michael Innocenti as Ira (Mel Brooks), Matt Dewberry as Milt (Carl Reiner), and Keven Hasser as Kenny (Larry Gelbart) to run wild.

… Innocenti has some of the toughest comedy to play outside of Ficca’s Caesar. The Ira character is a deadly serious hypochondriac, and Innocenti is at his funniest when he is playing out his disease of the day. … Matt Dewberry as Milt/Carl Reiner has a particular challenge in portraying a desperate man going through a failed marriage all the while delivering punch line after punch line .– badda boom, badda bing! Underneath his comic veneer, there are hints of real suffering that bring an added dimension to the play. He walks a fine line in fine fashion. The highlight of his performance comes in the second act when he discovers that Caesar has a pathological revulsion toward white suits. And what has Milt worn to work that day? Killer funny stuff.

Brianna Letourneau as Carol/Selma Diamond and Dan Van Why as Brian/Michael Stewart are not given anywhere near the same comic material to work with as the others although Letourneau more than holds her own on the humor scale when she shows up painfully pregnant in the second act.

Set designed by Samina Veith is exactly as one would expect for the period and allows director, Colin Smith to direct the traffic and use the various furniture pieces to maximize the comic potential of this very funny play. Given the quality of the cast, he was wise to give them wide berth to play out Simon’s script.

Hats off to the Keegan. As easy as Simon makes comedy look, it is actually more difficult in many ways than straight drama. This cast and crew get it right and the results are almost too funny for words.

Read the full review at DC Theatre Scene