The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at TheatreWorks New Milford had the audience giggling right from the first word.
The Tale of the Allergist's Wife at TheatreWorks New Milford had the audience giggling right from the first word. It may have been gloomy outside but the almost full theater was immersed in laughter throughout the evening concluding with a standing ovation for this talented cast.
Charles Busch is a contemporary American actor, screenwriter, playwright and female impersonator. The Tale of the Allergist's Wife is his best known play and was written for the actress Linda Lavin who played the role of Marjorie on Broadway in 2000. It was nominated for a Tony Award in 2001 for Best Play.
In The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Marjorie Taub is a middle-aged matron living comfortably on the Upper West Side with her retired doctor husband, Ira, an allergist keen on helping the less fortunate. Marjorie is adrift fancying herself a philosopher and volunteer extraordinaire, but wondering how she recently ended up in the Disney Store smashing expensive figurines. Her mid-life crisis is in full tilt boogie-woogie. Her love/hate relationship with her mother is a typical Jewish conundrum and the basis for most of the laughs in this play. Enter Lee Green an old childhood friend and things start to get strange and …kinky.
Moving about the stage with the precise hesitation of a woman now dependent on a walker, Jody Bayer gives a most convincing performance as Freida, Marjorie's mother. Her litany of physical ailments is recited as smoothly as if she were telling you about the weather and it's never overplayed. Jody Bayer is an actor who knows how to use profanity with such poise it doesn't distract from her character. It makes her endearing.
M. J. Hartell is exceptional as Marjorie. There are many lines to memorize here and opening night she was on the mark, no hesitation, no flubs. A master of facial expressions, M. J. Hartell twists her face and scrunches her eyes in full thrush of her character. Together with Jody Bayer they are perfection personified and the stars of this show.
In Rosemary Howard's capable hands Lee Green is an enticing friend from childhood and Ms. Howard's acting exudes professional stage presence. She knows exactly how to play this supporting role and delivers a solid performance.
Mitchell Prywes as Dr. Ira Taub and Matt Austin as the doorman, Mohammed have smaller, supporting roles. Matt Austin makes the most of Mohammed and made me smile in the few times he's on stage. Mr. Austin knows how to make a small part sparkle. Mitchell Prywes is a doctor, playing a doctor which makes for an interesting twist but his performance is bland and although a supporting role it needs more punch.
This is a dialogue rich play with plenty of physical movement and positioning. Director Debbie Levin exhibits strong blocking skills matched with keen guidance to the cast on comedic timing. However, fade to black scene changes throughout the play are sometimes too slow and the last twenty minutes falter and stall before regaining momentum for a sound finish.
Richard Pettibone's set design is beautiful, a true rendition of an Upper West Side apartment with a view of the bridge and an elegant feel of wealth.
Canadian psychologist Elliot Jaques coined the term "midlife crisis" in 1965 referring to a time when adults realize their own mortality and what they've done with their lives. The Tale of the Allergist's Wife delves into this phenomenon in an amusing way while underscoring that maybe what we have achieved is not that bad at all.