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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Lehman Shines in Laughter

At 8 p.m. Thursday November 9 well-groomed, delightfully attired patrons arrived at the McCormack theater to view the opening night performance of Laughter on the 23rd floor by Neil Simon. Two hours later when the show ended, I felt that the cast (who were also well-groomed and delightfully attired) had entertained and amused me to the point where I was sure my laughter could be heard over the actors themselves. However, while I will be the first to defend the quality of the show, I must add that one actor stood out well beyond all others and therefore deserves particular recognition.

Jonathan Lehman, who played the part of Lucas, the shy, awkward, and off-beat character, put on the best performance of all. From the moment the curtain went up, Lehman revealed his ability to play a dynamic character that was affected by his the other cast members and actually experienced a change from act I to act II. Unlike the other characters who entered the stage with the same haphazard energy and chaos in both acts, Lehman’s character became more confident and even a little funny in the second act.

It was, perhaps, the thoughtful aspect of Lehman’s character, and his clear contrast to the remaining cast that made him stand out so much, but nevertheless, he clearly demonstrated a superior performance over the other cast members. His character did not need crazy antics, loud, obnoxious monologues, or a strip scene to make him a joy to watch. His genius lay in his awkward movements, his weird facial expressions, and his genuine interest in the other characters. Always trying to please those around him, he often seemed like a younger sibling who was finally allowed to hang out with his older, much cooler brother and his friends.

Unfortunately, because of the inherent lack of aplomb that his character exhibited, it was apparently easy to miss the subtle, yet clearly superior quality of his performance.

The more obvious picks would have been Matt Flynn and Rocky Graziano, who played overtly dramatic, and commanding roles. Flynn, who played the lead character, Max Prince, dazzled the crowd with a first act strip down to his boxers, while Graziano hushed the audience to silence in the second act with a brief, yet wholly enjoyable ballad (to which Flynn joined in at the end).

Yet for all their good looks, crazy stunts, and loud voices, they seemed to get lost in the chaos of the play itself (not to mention the overabundance of one-dimensional characters). It often had the effect of a welter to which each character contributed. Except, of course, for Lehman.

While I hate to sound like an over zealous fan-club leader, I do wish to give credit where credit is due. If it weren’t for Lehman’s seamless portrayal the awkward character, Lucas, the play would have been lacking. He gave the play the small semblance of depth it exhibited, which left me feeling I was watching more than just a random series of comedy routines.

In short, the character Lucas had depth and curiosity, while Lehman’s performance of him was original and truly worth the $8 and two hours I spent to see it. And while I cannot dispute my delight in seeing Flynn climb his pedestal in boxer shorts, and Graziano sing his heart our like he was Bette Midler herself, it would be doing a disservice to the overall quality of the play to give them the lonely credit for the play’s successes.