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Tickle Your Funny Bone with SBCC’s ‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor’

The college's Theater Group presents the Neil Simon play through July 25

This summer’s production by the Santa Barbara City College Theater Group is Neil Simon’s 1993 comedy, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, directed by Judy Garey and starring Leslie Gangl Howe, Jon Koons, Joseph Beck, George Coe, Trevor Dow, Rebecca Ridenour, Justin Stark, Jerry Vassallo and William Waxman.

Charles Thomson Garey designed the play’s lighting, Mary Gibson the costumes and Patricia Frank the scenery.

Laughter runs through July 25, with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors and $8 for students. Seats can be reserved by calling the box office at 805.965.5935.

Since modernization work on the Garvin Theatre and the Drama/Music Complex continues, Laughter on the 23rd Floor will play in the newly christened “Interim Theatre” — in one of the white single-story buildings adjacent to the West Campus turnaround, between the Garvin Theatre and the West Campus parking lots. The Interim Theatre has only 100 seats, so get tickets early.

“I’ll make a pact with you, Walt Whitman — I have detested you long enough.” So wrote Ezra Pound in 1914. I feel like proposing a similar agreement with Simon, of whose plays I have tended to disapprove, even while I laugh my head off at them.

On the one hand, I find it utterly implausible that so many witty and articulate — not to say glib — people can all occupy the same space at the same time. On the other hand, his plays reflect the working of a perceptive, sympathetic and ruthlessly humane mind in an age that has grown steadily less tolerant of such virtues.

He works in a vein of pure comedy, not satire. He does not hold himself aloof from his characters, does not look down upon them. To the contrary, he is always among them, on the same level of existence, the only level there is. His affection for people as individuals does not seem to have a dark side — even when, as in Laughter on the 23rd Floor, there are nasty things lurking in the shadows (not Freudian nastiness, but political pathology in the shape of McCarthyism).

Instead of resenting his cleverness and success through the years, I should have been composing hymns of gratitude. I don’t find much funny these days, but I can still laugh at a Neil Simon play.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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