Watching writers write just isn’t exciting, which is why the writers in Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor don’t spend much time doing so on stage. Instead, their brainstorming for “The Max Prince Show” is diverted by put-downs, clashes of ego, mutual confrontations with personal and mutual insecurities, and unapologetic slapstick. Much of the latter comes from their boss, played at North Coast Rep by its artistic director, David Ellenstein. Simon’s thinly veiled reminiscence of his salad days working on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” is sweet and silly, as is this production directed by Tom Markus. Everyone overplays his or her hand to an extent, though both Phil Johnson and Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, as two of the writers, succeed with restraint and reaction, too. Laughter isn’t as cutesy as some of Simon’s better known plays, and that’s also to the good.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.