By its very title, theatregoers likely expect that the next White Rock Players’ Club production will be laugh-riotous…. and they would be right.
But Laughter on the 23rd Floor, playwright Neil Simon’s personal take on his time as a junior writer for live TV comedy in the early-‘50s, promises so much more than just a steady stream of laughs. With political and professional danger looming for members of this New York City writing room – based on Simon’s own experiences writing for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows – the jokes range from the silly to the thoughtful to the seriously funny, or funnily serious, however you want.
Opening June 12, Laughter is helmed by director Lance Peverley and includes a cast of nine, including newcomers to the White Rock stage that have been seen in many productions across the Lower Mainland. “We wanted to cast actors who are close to as described in Simon’s masterful blueprint,” said Peverley, who served as the editor of Peace Arch News from 2007 until last December. “And that means mainly younger personalities in their 20s and early 30s, who worked under Caesar’s leadership in Your Show of Shows, Caesar’s Hourand follow-up ventures.”
Modern audiences might recognize character traits and bon mots from some of their favourite comedy legends whose careers really took flight long after TV moved on from its first Golden Age. Among those in Caesar’s pantheon of writers – albeit hidden on Laughter behind pseudonyms and amalgams – were not only a very young Simon, but also Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen, and perhaps lesser known but no less respected Mel Tolkin, Sheldon Keller and Lucille Kallen, and of course Caesar himself.
Cast members include Adrian Shaffer (Comedy of Tenors – WRPC) as Lucas Brickman, Nikolas Perry (A Bedfull of Foreigners – RCTC) as Max Prince, Callum Henderson (Don’t Dress for Dinner – Laughing Matters Theatre Company) as Ira Stone, Daleal Monjazeb (Caprica) as Milt Fields, Rebekah MacEwan (Suessical – FVGSS) as Carol Wyman, Adam Beggs (Rabbit Hole – Vagabonds) as Kenny Franks, Yukon de Leeuw (Wit – Peninsula Productions) as Brian Doyle, Janelle Carss (Present Laughter – WRPC) as Helen and Charles Buettner (Ninothcka – WRPC) as Val Slotsky. Stage managers Pat McDermott and Bridget Browning keep the show moving behind the scenes, aided by the many volunteers that bring Laughter to Life.