The public-spirited Roundabout Theatre is enlivening the summer doldrums with a spot of British comic relief from a bygone decade. Benn W. Levy's ``Springtime for Henry'' became a Broadway hit in 1931 and served Edward Everett Horton as a perennial touring vehicle for many a subsequent season. It survives as a mildly entertaining theatrical curio, a relic of the days when such lightweight Mayfair comedies were models of fashion.
Staged by British-born Tony Tanner, the Roundabout revival strives for the airy farcicality that can look so easy when it comes off and seem so labored when it doesn't. The plot concerns playboy Henry Dewlip (Peter Evans), a short-tempered type who runs out of secretaries almost as fast as the employment agency can dispatch them. Henry meets his match in the latest recruit, the primly precise Miss Smith (Jodi Thelen), who reforms the rake only to disillusion him as the result of a plot surprise.
The comedy's foursome is completed by dithering Johnny Jelliwell (George N. Martin), Henry's friend from school days, and wife, Julia Jelliwell (Tovah Feldshuh), with whom Henry has been dallying. The situation allows plenty of scope for Mr. Levy's satirical observations and farcical didoes. Schoolboy jokes, the frailty of old-school ties, addled classicism, malapropisms, theatrical avant-gardism, and fashionable infidelity furnish a typical sampling of the humorous content of ``Springtime for Henry.'' By no means all of the allusions have dated. If the playwright doesn't anticipate feminism, the females of this drawing-room affray more than hold their own.
In the acting department, however, the men predominate. Mr. Martin's Johnny Jelliwell is silliness and naive gallantry personified, and Mr. Evans wins some genuine laughs as the rou'e who comes to rue his reformation. As the slinky, blond Julia, Miss Feldshuh combines grande dame, grand ham, and femme fatale. Miss Thelen is an exceedingly pretty Miss Smith, but her attempt at an English accent is, to say the least, eccentric. The posh living-room set was designed by Holmes Easley, with costumes by Rober t Pusilo and lighting by Barry Arnold.
``Springtime for Henry'' is scheduled to run through Sept. 1.