Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Tale of the Allergist's Wife
The Broadway play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife has hit Washington, DC. Now playing at National Theatre, the New York comedy explores the midlife crisis of Marjorie Taub, a pseudo-intellectual who is married to an esteemed allergist. Marjorie is steeped in culture. She attends art exhibits, experimental theater and is an avid reader of Herman Hesse. When Marjorie comes to the realization that she is not as intellectually advanced as she thought, she goes through something close to a breakdown. However, she snaps out of her crisis when an old friend re-enters her life. Lee is worldly, glamorous and brings some unexpected experiences into Marjorie's life.
The Tale of the Allergist's Wife did quite well on Broadway. The role of Marjorie was originated by television and theater alum Linda Lavin. When Lavin left the show, television veteran Valerie Harper stepped in. Now Ms. Harper has taken the show on the road.
Written by Charles Busch, the play itself is a mix of the Karma Sutra and The Golden Girls. Busch's show takes some surprising turns and his dialogue is both funny and clever. Unfortunately, this touring cast doesn't do the material justice.
Valerie Harper is a skilled comedienne but she doesn't always meet the demands of this character. Her portrayal is a bit weak in the first act. However, she seems to get more comfortable by the second act and delivers a strong performance.
As her husband Ira, Mike Burstyn has some nice moments even though there are times when his delivery seems forced. Jana Robbins plays the outrageous Lee. Ms. Robbins' portrayal is all wit and sensuality. She fits the role perfectly. Rounding out the cast is Sondra James as Frieda and Jonathan Hova as Mohammed. Both give wonderful performances. Ms. James as Marjorie's spitfire mother is especially entertaining.
The set design by Santo Loquast is incredibly realistic. It makes one feel as if they just walked into an apartment on Riverside Drive. Additionally, the costume design by Ann Roth helps to define the characters. Lee's costumes are especially effective.
Although very entertaining, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife may only appeal to a select demographic. Those who enjoy cultural humor and the New York sensibility will definitely get a kick out of this show. The Tale of the Allergist's Wife runs at the National Theatre through March 23rd.
The National Theatre
Valerie Harper: Marjorie