What's funnier than a washed-up comedian? Two washed-up comedians. If you believe that,
awaits you at the Wilma Theater. (There's an unprintable joke in there, somewhere.)
Roy Smiles, a British playwright apparently obsessed with washed-up comedians, wrote the resounding flop produced by the Wilma last season,
A Walk With the Goons
, also directed by Jiri Zizka. Nobody except the few Brits in the audience got that one since it referred to British comics. Nobody even understood the name. But we can't cry ignorance about
since it's about Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce, and we understand the name - the Yiddish word
means fool, although it's actually the word for penis.
The show imagines Marx (Ron Crawford), now an old man, and Lenny Bruce (Erik Jensen), now a drug addict on his way to prison after an obscenity trial, meeting in a diner in New York during the 1965 blackout. Why the night of the blackout? Dunno. Doesn't matter. The diner has a generator.
It also has a redheaded Irish waitress named Mary (Caitlin Clouthier). Smiles loves stereotypes: This colleen is an ex-hooker, daughter of an Irish cop. There is also a young Jewish comic, Joe Klein (Ian Alda, doing a relentless Woody Allen imitation), who has just bombed at the Bitter End. "I bomb a lot - they call my act a Luftwaffe."
We watch Joe do his pitiful act. Then we watch Groucho Marx do the same routine with old-time one-liners. Then we watch Lenny Bruce do the same routine as a sociopolitical rant. Later, when the ghost of Harpo (Gary Littman) appears, he will, after an overlong but charming vaudevillian bit, do the same routine as mime. This is a great gimmick that falls flat because the routines are not recognizably the same. Aside from the fact that that they're not funny.
Not only is
' material lame, but the characters are unlikable: When anyone orders coffee, Mary smugly says, "What's the magic word . . .?" Bruce is nasty and smug, Marx is corny and smug, and Joe isn't smug, he's just dull. They are all self-pitying; each of their various backstories is a cliched plea for sympathy.
To paraphrase Groucho, You want funny, schmendrick - go elsewhere.
Through Jan. 4 at the Wilma Theater, Broad and Spruce Streets. Tickets $39-$55. Information: 215-546-7828 or