Entertainment » Theatre

Fred Sullivan Stars in Laughter on the 23rd Floor

by Joe Siegel
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Wednesday Feb 12, 2014
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Fred Sullivan Junior
Fred Sullivan Junior  

Mayhem is king backstage at "The Max Prince Show," a popular 1950s comedy-variety TV series. The stress of declining ratings is eating Max alive, but his harried writing staff frantically scrambles to top each other with gags, while competing for the attention of the star performer. Inspired by the playwright’s youthful experience as a staff writer on Sid Caesar’s "Your Show of Shows," Neil Simon re-creates the competitiveness and lunacy of a real-life writer’s room in "Laughter on the 23rd Floor."

Fred Sullivan stars as Max Prince in Ocean State Theatre Company’s production of the show, running from January 29 through February 16, after recently winning rave reviews for his portrayal of Scrooge in Trinity Rep’s holiday production "A Christmas Carol." Amiee Turner as the lone female writer, Carol Wyman, will join him.

Local cast members include OSTC favorites Tom Andrew, Mark S. Cartier, and Matt DaSilva, Jean-Pierre Ferragamo, Tommy Labanaris. Rounding out the cast are newlyweds Erin and Tyler Fish.

Brad Van Grack will be directing this production. Van Grack has been a long-time member of The Capitol Steps, a musical-political satire group.

"It’s a gift role," Sullivan told EDGE. "(Max is) complex, he’s manic, he’s deeply damaged but he’s a caring and driven and hilarious guy."

Sullivan adores the real life writers who worked with Sid Caesar on "Your Show of Shows."

"Larry Gelbart is one of my heroes, Mel Brooks is one of my heroes," Sullivan said. "The play is such a love letter to that time. It’s like being in a time machine and going back to the 1950s and seeing this kind of famous writers room, how they came up with the great sketches in this variety show."

Sullivan is also an admirer of Neil Simon’s work, calling "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" "a wonderful script. It’s so funny and it has so much heart."

Sullivan is a veteran member of the Trinity Repertory Company. He has performed in over 100 plays, including "The Grapes of Wrath" and Neil Simon’s "The Odd Couple." More recently, Sullivan played the troubled artist Mark Rothko in "Red" at the Gamm Theater. He plans to direct an upcoming production of "MacBeth" at the Gamm.

Playing Max Prince was a "nice change of pace," Sullivan said, noting his long run as Scrooge was "very rewarding."

Sullivan finds acting a constant challenge and enjoys researching the characters he brings to life on stage.

Going from one dramatic role to another is a "rollercoaster ride," Sullivan explained. "It’s impossible to be bored. It’s impossible not to have your mind challenged, your imagination tweaked. It’s the greatest job in the world."

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor" will be presented at Ocean State Theatre from January 29 - February 16. Previews are scheduled for Wednesday, January 29 at 7:30 pm and Thursday, January 30 at 2:00 and 7:30 pm. All other performances will be held Wednesday (except February 5) through Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm, with matinees on Thursdays (except February 13), Saturdays at 2:00 pm (except February 15) and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

The theatre is located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. Tickets are $30 for preview performances and $34-$49 for all other performances. Discount rates for groups of 20 or more are available by calling (401) 921-1777 x112. $25 Tickets are also available online 24 hours a day at www.OceanStateTheatre.org and via telephone during normal box office hours by calling (401) 921-6800.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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