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Release: Immediate

'Laughter on the 23rd Floor' continues Iowa Summer Rep Simon festival

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Summer Rep '97 festival of comedies by Neil Simon will present "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 2, in Theatre B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Additional performances of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" will be at 8 p.m. July 3, 9, 13, 15, 20 and 23-26. On July 4, the play will be performed at 6 p.m., preceding the Independence Day fireworks, and there will also be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 6.

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor," which premiered in 1993, has been described as Simon's most fast-paced and manic comedy. Jack Kroll wrote in Newsweek, "Now that Neil Simon has won his Pulitzer Prize he can relax and just be funny. That's what he's done in 'Laughter on the 23rd Floor,' his 29th Broadway production and one of his funniest."

The play was inspired by Simon's memories of television's "golden age," when he was part of a comedy-writing team that included Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart and Carl Reiner. Their jokes and skits for Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on NBC's "Your Show of Shows" are still regarded as some of the most inspired material ever written for the medium. In the 1950s Simon also wrote for Phil Silvers, Garry Moore, Jerry Lewis, Jackie Gleason and other of TV's most popular comedians.

"Here Simon is doing what he does best -- telling jokes about the making of laughs," John Lahr wrote in The New Yorker. "Simon brings us news both of the golden age of TV comedy and of the process of comedy-writing itself."

The comedy in "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" works on two levels -- the wit that is the writer's stock in trade and the mixture of their own entertaining eccentricities. One is a hypochondriac who dreams of having a virus named after him, and another is a Russian emigrant who takes a Berlitz course so that he can curse without an accent.

While he certainly had the personal experience necessary to portray the competitive, raucous and exhilarating atmosphere of the writers' room, Simon says that a challenge he immediately recognized was, "How am I gonna write a play where everybody in the room is funny?"

His answer is a script in which a substantial part of the entertainment is in the characterizations. "Here everybody is funny, but not in telling jokes," Simon explains. "They're funny in other ways -- in self-deprecating ways, in abusive ways, in ignorant and witty ways."

While laughter is both the subject and the medium of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," the play is also driven by dramatic elements. The time is the early '50s, the McCarthy Era, and the eccentric comedy writers in their workroom are insulated from neither the pressures of network politics nor the irritations and tragedies of their own lives. Lahr wrote, "Divorce, illness, witch-hunts -- in fact, all loss -- are the stuff that these professional funnymen are trying to evade."

Artistic contributors to the Iowa Summer Rep production of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" are director Mary Beth Easley, set and costume designer Dan Nemteanu, lighting designer Bryon Winn and sound designer Mark Bruckner.

Tickets for "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" are $15 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and young people 17 and younger). Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performances will be available an hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor" tickets are also available at a discount of more than 20 percent as part of an Iowa Summer Rep subscription package. The other Neil Simon shows in the series are "Broadway Bound" and "God's Favorite." Subscription packages are $35 ($20 for UI students, senior citizens and young people 17 and younger).

Hancher box office summer hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. The box office will be closed July 4. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Before each evening performance, from 6:30 p.m. to curtain time, Iowa Summer Rep offers outdoor dining on the Theatre Building patio, overlooking the Iowa River. This season, in harmony with the New York Jewish milieu of Simon's plays, the Iowa Memorial Union catering service will become Bubby's Deli, featuring family-favorite recipes of IMU Chef Barry Greenberg. The dinner menu includes authentic New York deli meats, bagels and lox, and New York cheesecake.

Reservations for Bubby's Deli are not required, but on weekends reservations are recommended. Reservations may be made by calling 319-335-3105.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of Iowa Summer Rep.

This production includes adult language. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should call the department of theatre arts at 319-335-2700 for additional information.