Enter Laughing

At the Wilbur until April 4

Without music, Enter Laughing is just too big a matzoh ball to swallow. Not that a score was ever written for the show, but one might forgive the vacuous book if the oi-so-stock Jewish jokes were textured frequently with a clever little song. After all, I Can Get It For You Wholesale--with an equally trite situation--overcame its basic obnoxiousness with show stoppers like "Miss Marmelstein." Enter Laughing, however, doesn't even try.

The plot is as thin as a very thin slice of salami (which could easily have been a line in this play). David Kolowitz, though working at Mr. Foreman's machine shop wants to be an actor. His friend Marvin shows him an ad for actors in the New York Post and David quits work early to head for the illegitimate theatre. There he is stunned by the leading lady's asset, her body, but not so completely that he doesn't come back in the end to his girl-friend Wanda, nor enroll in pharamacy school as his parents have urged all along. David is a good boy.

But then nobody, not the director Gene Saks, not the actors, not the audience, takes the plot seriously. Of course, given this raw material such an approach is unavoidable and also the cause of the show's failure. A string of jokes with little purpose evokes only stock laughter. One laughs yet applauds for the briefest curtain call.

And most of the jokes are lousy, at that. The show starts with a phone call from David's girlfriend. Mr. Foreman picks up the receiver, asks who's calling, and exclaims, "Wanda? What kind name is Wanda?" That's a joke. Yet there are flashes of wit: vicariously excited by David's reports, his friend Marvin asks David if he undressed the leading lady (Yvonne De Carlo--and what an asset she has) or vice versa. David hesitates a second and then debonairly replies, "We got a kid off the streets and paid him a quarter to do it," (After all, it was the Sabbath.) Such moments unfortunately are rare.

Even the best efforts of a fine cast fail to transform the criticially poor script. Miss De Carlo is nice to look at, but seems as silly as her lines. Alan Mowbray, who plays her father, is so bored he's boring. And Irving Jacobson, a strange combination of Eddie Cantor and Mr. Magoo, as Mr. Foreman, is as cliched a first generation imigrant as you'll ever want to see.

If there is a bright spot in the show, it's Alan Arkin's David. There's not much to the part, but Arkin never stops trying: he apes, he mimics, he double takes, and he double talks. Yet Arkin's humor is strictly in the Jerry Lewis vein. And how many adults like Lewis?