Bert Lahr, who's been on the boards since you used to sit on your father's lap at the neighborhood Burlesque, romped into town this week with a routine that sent a front row of bald heads rolling into the aisle and put a fold in the whalebone corset of someone's spinster aunt. Not since Stinky and Shorty pervaded the atmosphere of the Old Howard has this Hub sniffed anything resembling Lahr's patter, and not since Margie Hart twisted her ankle on a faulty runway have Beacon Hill Burghers seen-even on the sly-a morsel like Irene Allarie, who bumps her svelte way through a colorful unveiling that is guaranteed to wilt even the stiffest of straw hats among the Summer Theatre Set.
But don't get the idea that this is just plain Burlesque. There's something of a story. It's to do with a second-rate comedian who goes big-time, loses his wife to a Wyoming eattleman, and comes back in the end to win wife, happiness and a half-pound of chopped sirloin. Lahr, naturally the comic, works his audience to the last laugh and even in the "sad" scenes manages to turn in a rather convincing performance. His boisterous presence, his remarkable stage direction of the entire cast and his perfect timing, are testimony to his years in the trade. His voice, which carries the richest Brooklyn accent outside of Jersey City, has a sandpaper timbre that was once a familiar echo from the old Palace in New York to the Rialto Burlesque in Chicago.
As Lahr's sometime but overloving wife, Eileon Heckart handles a large and difficult part well. Singing, dancing and generally playing small-time vaudevillian, she does an intelligent and very able portrayal. Robert Weil, a barrel-bodied dwarf who did his all to hold up Ann Corio through three acts of "Sailor Beware," this season, turns up here as a two-bit Burlesque gagster, and is an extremely funny little man. William Mendrek and Ruth Homond, whose names appear on these pages from time to time, do their usually adequate job. And for purely local interest-besides some trim chorines who can't get telephones either-is Joe Battaglia '25, lisping an occasional word but more often playing a very neat brothel-piano background.
Summer theatre or not, "Burlesque" is worth anybody's inflation buck, and if you can't make it over to the air-conditioned New England Mutual Hall, buy yourself a Japanese fan, grab a towel, and sit tight till it subways over to Brattle Street.