Saved From Obscurity Play by Tom Mardirosian. Directed by John Ferraro. ``Saved From Obscurity'' demonstrates with disarming drollery, that actors are people just like everyone else - only more so. In the case of the struggling player, Shakespeare's seven ages are endlessly multiplied and subdivided. Stage folk ``who live to please must please to live.'' Besides audiences, they must also please agents, directors, playwrights, producers, and even backers. That is no small challenge. Take the case of Tom Mardirosian, author and principal actor in the new autobiographical comedy at Playwrights Horizons studio theater.
Mr. Mardirosian is first discovered (as they say in stage directions) armed in helmet, breastplate, and gauntlets as the Provost in ``Measure for Measure,'' his debut appearance in Central Park Shakespeare. The prologue leads to spirited reminiscences of auditions with Joseph Papp. ``He's so cool - I love it,'' observes the admiring Mardirosian, whose barking impersonation of the formidable impresario is one of the highlights of ``Saved From Obscurity.'' In an uninterrrupted memory piece that lasts about 90 minutes, the actor-author discloses the Armenian family roots to which he owes his unpronounceable name. He traces his checkered career from a grade school disaster through the University of Buffalo and beyond. The parts he won (but not those he lost) are summarized in the r'esum'e on the reverse side of his glossy photograph, a must for an actor seriously intent on persevering in his profession.
Mardirosian's career was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army, which, instead of sending him to Korea or Vietnam, made him a stateside chaplain.
Military service completed and back in the theater, the actor resumed inching his way forward through Shakespearean roles as well as parts in plays by such contemporaries as Albert Innaurato and Larry Kramer. Reinaldo Povod's ``Cuba and His Teddy Bear'' meant Broadway. As understudy to both Robert De Niro and Burt Young, he actually went on for Mr. Young - a fabulous moment. There were also bits in TV and films.
The engaging memorist treats his professional colleagues with a kind of affectionate candor that can often be sharply funny. His comments on Method acting and contemporaries from Richard Foreman to Marsha Norman authenticate as well as enliven ``Saved From Obscurity.''
In the most poignant sequence, Mardirosian confesses that fear overcame his compassion when he discontinued visiting a longtime friend and agent who was dying of AIDS. Otherwise, this is a humorous piece whose backstage gossip and in-jokes don't preclude enjoyment by civilian playgoers.
``Saved From Obscurity'' relies on incidental cameos by fellow actors Peter Appel, Frederica Meister, and Hansford Rowe, who obligingly help fill out the canvas.
John Ferraro has staged a buoyant performance, neatly accommodated within Rick Dennis's simple, multipurpose setting, lighted by Jackie Manassee. Marilyn Keith's costumes suit all occasions. Scheduled to run through Nov. 13, ``Saved From Obscurity'' should be extended indefinitely.