By Emily Lukasewycz & Miranda Horn
The generational tone of the piece did not seem specifically intended for current college students, but the opening night audience, made up of mostly older people, was extremely receptive even to the harsher language and the dirtier jokes.
The entire show is set in a writing room in 30 Rockefeller Center and follows the workplace antics of Lucas Brickman (played by Mercer’s own Mark Swift, a Theater major), an eager, level-headed writer recently hired by NBC to write for “The Max Prince Show” –patterned on the Sid Ceasar show that was popular in the 1950’s.
Clever usage of dim and bright lighting allowed the Brickman character to be the narrator as well as lead actor. Early on Brickman realizes he will have to become as crazy as the rest of the staff, including the star of the sketch comedy show, Max Prince, to keep his job.
The production featured a single set consisting of a long table, a couch, some chairs and a wall that gets an increasing number of holes in it as the show progresses.
The strength of the show lay less in the visual set up and more in its acting talent. The scene-stealers were Michael Gonzalez in the role of Milt Fields, and Swift as Brickman. Gonzalez’s character was modeled after Carl Reiner, and his performance of the swanky Fields left the audience rolling. Swift captured the quirky nuances of Simon’s humor and provided the emotional grounding for the show’s more sentimental important moments.
“The comedic banter between Max and the writers was timelessly entertaining,” said Mercer County Community College student Andrew Maldonado, a second year Graphic Design/Visual Arts major.
As a 30 year veteran with The State Street Players, actor Joseph Perignat (Max Prince), is no stranger to Neil Simon’s comedy. When asked if everything went according to plan during opening night he said, “Just about 99 percent.”
Director, Producer, Costumer, and Set Designer John Maurer of Maurer Productions OnStage was thrilled with the cast’s performance throughout. When asked what part of the show he was most excited about, Maurer said, “It was up on its feet and running. The months of work on the show is now in front of an audience and there is laughter. We may not be on the 23rd floor, but the laughter is there all the same.”