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‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor’ opens at Players Circle

February 19, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Imagine having some of the most talented writers in the history of TV, film and stage all working in one room for one TV show.

That's exactly what happened in the 1950s when writers like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart were writers for "Your Show of Shows" starring Sid Caesar, during the dawn of television.

Now, you get to be a fly on the wall to see what it was like to be in that room with that Dream Team in Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," which is playing now at the Player's Circle Theatre at the Shell Factory.

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“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” is running now though March 8 at the Players Circle Theatre.


The play represented the last great production of Simon's illustrious career as he takes us on a fictionalized view of what TV and the world were like in the early 1950s, with the Korean War, and Sen. Joe McCarthy's Red Scare were in full bloom, which terrified many writers at the time, as they were among the main targets.

The legendary achievements of this group goes without saying, and put together with this complex time it provides for a great dramedy, uproarious laughter along with great dramatic moments.

"It's about a bunch of writers writing the Saturday Night Live of 1954. It was very sophisticated, smart comedy," said Robert Cacioppo, producing artistic director at the Players Circle. "Sid Caeser had such an eye for talent, he got all these 20-something guys and a woman in a room and went on to shape comedy in the second half of the 20th Century."

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The play stars Matt Michael, as Max Prince, the character based on Sid Caesar. Michael recently was featured in the Players Circle production of "The Dining Room." Jordan Bunshaft plays Ira, the hypochondriac comic genius based on Mel Brooks. Brunshaft is a native New Yorker and a graduate of Wagner College. Maximilian Kroger plays Lucas, the narrator and alter ego of Simon.

Joel Stigliano play Kenny, based on a complication of Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart, Also in the cast is Katie Pankow, as the only female writer on the staff, Carol.

"These guys are writing great comedy during a scary time in our history. It has much more substance than people realize," Cacioppo said. "We all did a lot of research, watching film and video of all these people. It's a great cast with many of them from out of town."

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor" is running now until March 8 at the theater at 16554 N. Cleveland Ave. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2.

For ticket information, go to www.playerscircle.orc or call the box office at 800-3292.



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