Laughter on the 23rd Floor, A Comedy of Queerers!, Mame, and Fillmore
by Anthony Chase
Laughter on the 23rd Floor
Do you remember Neil Simon? Still living, he is arguably the most successful American playwright in history, with a litany of plays, films, and television shows to his credit. There is a Broadway theater named after him.
Simon famously mines his own life experience for his material, which roughly falls into two categories: his family and his career. Certain plays, like Broadway Bound, bridge the divide, but in Laughter on the 23rd Floor, which opens this week at American Repertory Theater of WNY, Simon gives the beginnings of his career full rein.
That brilliant career began as a joke writer for Sid Caesar on NBC’s Your Show of Shows, back in the early 1950s. In the play, network executives are concerned that the comedy sketches being generated by the writing team for star Max Prince are popular in the Northeast, but too sophisticated for the Midwest. Simon represents himself in the play as Lucas Brickman, a character who provides ongoing commentary on the behind the scenes antics.
I recall the original 1993 Broadway production, featuring Nathan Lane, Randy Graff, Mark Linn-Baker, and Lewis J. Stadlen, with great affection. Under the direction of Thomas LaChiusa, the ART production will feature Jacob Albarella, Andrea Andolina, David Bondrow, Jeffrey Coyle, Gary Darling, Lisa Dee, Sean Kelly, Ronald J Leonardi, and David C. Mitchell. Performances will take place at Buffalo East, 1412 Main Street, and continue through June 11. Call 884-4858 for details.
A Comedy of Queerers!
Brazen-Faced Varlets, a wacky and irreverent troupe of wildly talented wild women, began its history in Buffalo with an all-female lesbian riff on Romeo and Juliet by Shawn Northrip called Ramona and Juliet. Several deranged and achingly funny journeys through the classics later, and they now return to the original source with a new take on a Shakespeare play, again by Northrip, this one called A Comedy of Queerers!
I guess that says it all.
A Comedy of Queerers is directed by Lara Haberberger, and stars Kelly M. Beuth, Heather Fangsrud, Theresa DiMuro Wilber, and Amy Wrzos. The production plays through June 4 at Rust Belt Books, located near the south west corner of Allen and Elmwood.
The great Jerry Herman, followed the huge success of his 1964 musical, Hello Dolly! with Mame in 1966—another story of an unconventional woman with an optimistic outlook and a larger than life personality. As in Dolly, he provided his title character with a musical homage. Each show was based on a beloved Broadway classic comedy and each was associated with the sensational performance of its original star—Carol Channing as Dolly, Angela Lansbury as Mame. Each was made into a forgettable film starring someone else.
O’Connell & Company and Playhouse of American Classics will tap the comic gifts of Mary Kate O’Connell to bring Mame to the stage of Erie Community College North Campus, under the direction of Terence McDonald. O’Connell is joined by Pamela Rose Mangus, Mark Burgasser, Patrick Cooke, Jennifer Fitzery, Joey Bucheker, Matthew Mooney, Paul Bene, and Jenn Stafford. Performances continue through June 5. Call 848-0800 for ticket information.
Fillmore is an original musical by Richard Lambert and composer Steve Borowski, directed by Drew McCabe. The setting is an abandoned house in Buffalo’s Fillmore neighborhood, haunted by the ghosts of generations of tragic people who lived there.
The theme is dark and the score is appropriately haunting. There will be a special performance of to benefit Friends of the Night on Sunday, May 22. This ambitious piece is performed with power and energy by Kathleen Ashwill, Wendy Hall, Mary Moebius, Marshall Maxwell, Crescenzo Scipione, Marshall Maxwell, Carmen Swans, and Jenny Kulwicki. The production plays through May 28 at the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, 95 Johnson Park. Call 853-1334.
21st Annual Artie Awards
Mark the calendar, the 21st annual Artie Awards will take place on Monday, June 6, hosted by this writer and multiple Artie winner Lisa Ludwig at the Town Ballroom, with musical direction by Michael Hake. Next week, Artvoice will publish the list of nominees, but to find out what they’re wearing, you’ll have to show up on the evening of June 6.
The event is a benefit for Benedict House, providing services for individuals with HIV and their families.
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