DeWitt After ducking behind-the-scenes to stage manage last month’s “Death of a Salesman,” versatile actor Jim Uva returns to centerstage in CNY Playhouse’s current offering, Neil Simon’s “Laughter of the 23rd Floor.”
One of the playwright’s later efforts, “Laughter” – a roman à clef based on Simon’s stint as a sketch writer for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” on NBC-TV in the early-1950s – was first produced on Broadway in 1993.
Directed here by CNY Playhouse Artistic Director Dustin Czarny, “Laughter” is largely an ensemble effort focusing on a half dozen eccentric television comedy writers, all beholden to their show’s star, Max Prince, played with panache by Edward Mastin.
Czarny took care to cast the right actors in each role. Dan Rowlands appears as the staff’s rookie and the play’s narrator. Lanny Freshman amuses as a fashion-challenged punchliner. Jim Magnarelli adopts a credible Russian accent as head writer Val Slotsky. David Vickers delivers a droll Kenny Franks. Gina Lynne Fortino plays a foul-mouthed Carol Wyman, and Czarny himself portrays chain-smoking blowhard Brian Doyle.
While each and every one of those actors shines in their respective roles, Uva eventually stands out. His entrance immediately enlivens the proceedings when his character – the ever-tardy hyper hypochondriac Ira Stone – finally arrives one the 23rd floor complaining of chest pains.
An everyman kind of guy a tad on the flabby side with a round and rubbery face, Uva might not seem like leading-man material, but, in fact, he can do it all.
He starred as irascible 1930s radio personality Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” He ably portrayed assistant defense lawyer Lt. Sam Weinberg in “A Few Good Men” and a double-crossed Mr. White in “Reservoir Dogs.” Most recently, Uva turned in an emotionally wrenching performance as Paul, the filmmaker friend of an ill-fated bipolar writer in the post-modern drama “Jump/Cut.”