Picks and Pans Review: Laughter on the 23rd Floor
The stars should be perfectly aligned for this adaptation of Neil Simon's 1993 play, a fictionalized memoir of his days on the talent-rich team that wrote TV comedy for Sid Caesar in the '50s. Nathan Lane, who played Caesar-like Max Prince on Broadway, repeats the role here—just as New York audiences are cheering his stage performance in The Producers, the musical smash from another former Caesar jokesmith, Mel Brooks.
There's only one hitch: Despite Lane's often strenuous efforts, Laughter on the 23rd Floor never ascends to the level of Simon's best work. When Max's writers (Saul Rubinek, Victor Garber, Dan Castellaneta, Mark Linn-Baker, Peri Gilpin, Zach Grenier and Mackenzie Astin) gather for their spitballing sessions, the results are more noisy than funny. And Simon's script never penetrates to the root causes of Max's problems with booze, pills and rage.
But remain after Laughter for Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age of Comedy (May 26, 9:45 p.m.), a lively documentary with vintage clips and comments from Caesar, Simon, Brooks, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner (whose son Rob narrates).
Bottom Line: The facts are more fun
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