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Laughter meets history in coming play

November 10, 2011

I recall seeing “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” when it first opened in New York City in 1993 and falling in love with the play. I think it is the combination of comedy and historical perspective that makes this play work so well. 

Neil Simon wrote the play about the time he was a writer for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show Of Shows.” Caesar had managed to put together a who’s who of comedy writers to work on the show. The staff included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Mel Tolkin, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart and Selma Diamond. The temptation is to match the characters with the writers Simon was poking fun at. Television was young, and there were high hopes that the artistic would trump the commercial, hence the play’s portrayal of the struggle between the broadcasting company and the character of Max Prince, who, like comedians Caesar and Jackie Gleason, wanted to offer quality shows. 

“Laughter” gives us all a chance to be a fly on the wall in what was probably the greatest writers’ room in the history of television. Set to the backdrop of the political climate of 1953, it is more than just a comedy. However, if there is a play out there with more jokes than this one, I have never read it. 

A very talented cast has been assembled for this production: a nice blend of Little Theatre Group (LTG) regulars like Noel Montagano, Dennis Atkinson, Ricardo Jiménez, Dave Nisson and Larissa Banting, sprinkled with newcomers such as Jim Trollinger, David Hixon, Salomón Ocon and Ana Jeannette Arias. Costa Rica is well-represented in this production. 

“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” opens Nov. 18 and runs until Dec. 4. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For reservations, call 8858-1446 or go to www.littletheatregroup.org. The Nov. 20 matinee performance will be a fundraiser for the Women’s Club of Costa Rica; call 2268-2182 for tickets for this show. 

The LTG – Costa Rica’s longest-running English-language community theater group – is supporting the Christmas toy drive sponsored by Open Arms Costa Rica, a foundation that seeks to help needy children of all ages enjoy the holiday season. Theatergoers are encouraged to bring along an educational toy for kids ages 2-12, or arts and crafts materials for teens ages 13-18, preferably wrapped and labeled for the age group for which the gift is intended. 

–Tom Humes

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