If you’re in the mood for a good, old-fashioned comedy, check out “Enter Laughing” during its five-week run at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield Township.
The play is based on Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel. In “Enter Laughing,” a high school graduate wants to free himself from his well-meaning parents to pursue acting, though they’d prefer he marry and become a pharmacist. The aspiring actor juggles girlfriends and struggles with challenges in New York City in the 1930s.
David Kolowitz, a 17-year old fresh out of high school, leads the cast of 14 characters.
“He’s bright eyed and bushy tailed,” says TJ Corbett, who plays David. “The world is his oyster, and he’s everything I remember being like when I graduated from high school.”
Corbett explains that the 1930s New York of David’s world is a bevy of art and talent, and he is raring to get his piece of that artistic pie. In turn, David is constantly reminded of his naivete.
“He hasn’t been exposed to the world yet,” the actor says. “Instead of him gradually walking into the world and experiencing it, he just kind of tries to kick in the door, he stumbles in and falls flat on his face, and has to pick himself up from there.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch him work himself through a bite that’s kind of more than he can chew.”
The 28-year-old Corbett is familiar with youthful characters. He played the 15-year-old Ernie Harwell in the Mitch Albom play, “Ernie,” in the past four years.
“I’ve been able to take the idea of the 15-year-old and mature him a few years,” he says. “A lot of it is still fresh ’cause I kind of remember what an 18-year-old was like.”
Corbett says he gets a lot of inspiration from his 6-year-old son.
“He’s a little boy now, not a toddler,” he says. “And he kind of thinks he gets how the world works and is starting to ask those real questions.
“It’s just that, honest to goodness, you don’t understand, so you ask the question or you do the wrong thing and you put that stuff together.”
Mary Bremer, the play’s director, says she’s working with a wonderful, laugh-a-minute script.
“And it’s got all the caricatures that you meet in show business ... some are magnified, and none are underplayed.”
Aside from the humor, “Enter Laughing” offers a good look at life from the standpoint of artistic pursuits; David has to convince all the people around him that acting is his life’s calling.
“I’ve taught for many years on the college level,” Bremer says. “And I see parents who say, ‘I will pay for anything but theater,’ and they fear for their children.
“And you can understand the fear. You have to have a lot of chutzpah to go through this, to stick to it, to keep that love alive, or that love never really goes away.”
Bremer says part of her rehearsal process was holding conversations with the cast about being in theater, and she tells the story of an actor she knew.
“This was a man who said, ‘Well, I got married and my wife said, “You aren’t going to do this anymore,” ’ and I just listened.’
“And several people in the show looked at each other and said, ‘I could never do that. It’s part of me.’ ”
She further describes the play as a listen-to-your-heart, fight-and-strive-for-your-dreams kind of show.
“And it really applies to all professions,” she continues. “You’ve gotta have a dream. Cause if you haven’t got a dream, from the lyrics of the old song, ‘how you gonna make a dream come true?’ ”
Andrea Daniel is a Detroit-based freelance writer.
2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays, 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m.
Sundays (Nov. 2 at 2 p.m.
and 7 p.m.) through Nov. 16
Jewish Ensemble Theatre
6600 W. Maple,
West Bloomfield Township