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A CurtainUp B erkshire Review
By Elyse Sommer
Director Scott Schwartz's directorial wit has given new and full of fizz life to this forty-year-old backstage memoir. The play has been eclipsed by Neil Simon's later and super successful Brighton Beach Memoirs. Its laugh lines aren't likely to hit you as the funniest you've ever heard, but no matter. Schwartz has captured the genuineness and humor of the characters and used double casting, usually an economy measure, to brilliant advantage. Happily, his concept is zestfully realized by a cast that's fully up to the required turn-on-a-dime character switches and a design team that supports not only the Great Depression aura but bolsters the idea that all the world's a stage.
The autobiographical coming of age story, which actually began as a book, identifies author Reiner as David Kolowitz (Jesse Bernstein), a recent high school graduate temporarily working in a small machine repair shop. His boss, Mr. Foreman (Ron Ohrbach) wants to train him to take over the business. His quintessential loving but domineering Jewish mother (Alix Korey) and Casper Milquetoast father (Stuart Zagnit) want him to become a druggist. David has other ideas. He dreams of being an actor, even though his acting experience is limited to doing impressions of Ronald Coleman and Louis Armstrong at high school events and for his admiring friend Marvin (Steve Rosen). When David answers a newspaper "casting call " ad for acting students to work at a down-on-its-luck theater, his love affair with the theater flowers and even Mama's iron cast apron strings can't hold him back. Acting not being his only passion, there are also romantic complication with his girl friend Wanda (Deana Barone) a sexy secretary and his leading lady (both played with panache by Rebecca Crescoff).
As David, Jesse Bernstein clearly uses Matthew Broderick's Brighton Beach characterization as his role model. At times he even sounds like him. While Bernstein is appealing, this production's big payoff comes from the double dipping supporting cast.
Ron Orbach's performance is a standout. His breathtakingly swift switches from Mr. Foreman to Marlowe, the over-the-top theater owner are reminiscent of the late, great Zero Mostel (the Fiddler of Stein's classic musical and Max Bialystock in the movie version of The Producers).
Rebecca Crescoff, last seen at BTF in the more serious Miss Julie here displays a great aptitude for comedy. She is deliciously ditzy as the blonde Miss B and scintillatingly seductive as David's leading lady, Angela. Deana Barone is also amusing as Wanda, the nice Jewish girl in David's life as well as in a surprise bit part in the play within the play.
Alix Korey has a way of transcending the stereotypical aspects of the Jewish ladies she so often portrays, and she does not disappoint here. Stuart Zagnit is just right as her long-suffering husband and one of the auditioning actors, as are Steven Rosen as David's fat friend Marvin and another auditioning actor. The double casting gets an especially hilarious second act turn when Daniel Pierce hardly bothers to hide his double identity as Miss B's gentleman friend and the harried stage manager.
Given the trouble trumpeting headlines that come with our morning coffee, Enter Laughing is a welcome easy to digest pick-me-upper.
For theatrical trivia collectors. The original production marked the acting debut of Alan Arkin as David and the directing debut of Gene Sachs. It opened at the Henry Miller Theater on March 13th, 1963 and played for a total of 419 performances. The fifteen characters were played by as many actors.
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