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STAGE REVIEW : ‘Sing for Your Supper’ Is Tasty Comedy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Plays about unemployed actors aren’t unusual in this often narcissistic town. But “You Gotta Sing for Your Supper” is one of the most enjoyable.

“Sing” had a too-brief 1988 run in Hollywood, remaining largely unsung. You’d think the thousands of struggling actors in the neighborhood would have flocked to it. Now they get a second chance--Ned Eisenberg’s comedy has been revived at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, in a production virtually identical to that 1988 rendition.

We’re at Nick’s tiny New York flat on a steamy summer night. He has invited over four of his pals, all actors, to suggest that they form a group to sing doo-wop on the streets. The paid work has been slow lately--why not create a street corner showcase?

Nick’s fellow New York actors are skeptical. But then a new arrival from California (funny and flip Cain DeVore) laughs at the very idea--which is enough to fire up the New Yorkers with enthusiasm for it. It helps that the Californian has just snagged the role of a New York Italian on a soap opera. This news drives the group’s bona fide New York Italian (Frank Como, magnificently choleric) to distraction--and to doo-wop.

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The first rehearsal starts well but soon threatens to disintegrate. It looks as if this will be just one more arena in which these actors can be rejected. Eisenberg takes us farther into actors’ fears and insecurities that you might imagine from such an affable little play.

So far, in fact, that nit-pickers may question the ease with which the group finally re-groups. But Eisenberg and the cast make us believe in the bond between these men--without resorting to male bonding cliches.

Eisenberg himself plays Nick, the smooth-talking mediator. Billy Strong huffs and puffs as the guy who incessantly trains his body, waiting for his big break; he’s likelier to get a big breakdown--and he knows it. The lone newcomer to the cast, Jordan Jacobson, fills in nicely as the assimilated Greek-American who incessantly trains his voice, afraid to look for his own big break. Bob Monroe, repeating his directing duties, deserves credit for the seamlessness of the ensemble.

“You Gotta Sing for Your Supper,” Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Indefinitely. $15-$17.50. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.


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