Act Theatre’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”
is a loose representation of the ‘50s hit TV
comedy “Your Show of Shows” that featured Sid
Caesar and Imogene Coca with a talented collection
- Picture a room with seven comic writers trying to
collaborate in putting together a 90-minute TV show. In
this case, the “Show of Shows,” featuring Sid
on the 23rd Floor” is a Neil Simon reflection on what
it was like working with a potpourri of humorous talents
at the beginning of his career as a fledging writer.
also, trying to accommodate the eccentric, frazzled
celebrity known as Sid, as well as the network that
sponsored him. In the 1950s, TV was trying to find its
place in the world of media. They were competing with
radio and films.
during this era,
was in the throes of the Cold War, the Communist scare
and the antics of Joseph McCarthy in his witch hunt to
find the “bad guys.” Many accomplished Americans,
many of them Jewish, had their reputations smeared and
were blacklisted, until Congress eventually put an end
to his crusade.
Sid’s two successive and successful shows were
discontinued, all of the writers featured here went on
to write for many other programs such as “Mash,”
“All in the Family” and “The Love Boat” as well
as films such as “Blazing Saddles” and “The
Producers.” So there is no doubt that comic talent
characterized this gathering of young writers, which,
for a time included Woody Allen also.
Cecsarini, an actor with a wide swath of capabilities,
filled the role of Sid Caesar, with perfection. He
captured the essence of this erratic, histrionic and
challenging-to-work-for man. It was obvious to his staff
that he enjoyed wide audience appeal, as well as
provided them a valuable stepping stone into their own
successful careers in the world of comedy after his
shows were cancelled. In addition he was basically a
decent and generous man.
other standouts in the cast included Zach Thomas Woods,
who played Lucas, who is based on Neil Simon, and
narrated the play; Adam Qutaishat who played the
difficult Ira Stone (Mel Brooks); Mohammad N. ELBsat,
(Mel Tolkin), the immigrant who was trying to be
accepted; and Karen Estrada as Carol (who represented
Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond, two female writers on
the staff.) Lindsay Webster as the harassed secretary
Helen definitely added sparkle and humor to her role at
the Christmas party. Kenny, well-played by Seth K. Hale,
possibly represented Carl Reiner.
Next Act performed this same play in its previous space
on St. Paul about 20 years ago. I enjoyed this
production even more, possibly due to Cecsarini’s
performance. He was the star of “The Show of Shows” and
this re-visiting of “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”
Directed by Edward Morgan with a fitting set design by
the ubiquitous Rick Rasmussen, this production was
obviously enjoyed by the audience, a near-full house.
on the 23rd Floor”
comedy runs through Dec. 15 at Next Act Theatre,
255 S. Water St.
. Call 414-278-0765 or visit