Tale of the Allergist’s Wife
Charles Busch is one of America’s most successful and well-known gay playwrights penning camp adventures such as "Die, Mommie, Die!," "Psycho Beach Party," and ?"Vampire Lesbians of Sodom." He’s also a hyphenate: playwright/screenwriter/actor and drag icon. In fact he often appears in his own productions in one of his many full female personas.
In 2000, Busch wrote his first play directed toward a mainstream audience, "The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife," which opened Friday night at Theatre Arlington. The play was a success on Broadway running for over a year and netting Tony nominations for actresses Linda Lavin and Michelle Lee as well as a nomination for Best Play.
But despite the success of "The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife" and its oft-produced inclusion in theater company season lineups throughout the country, the play feels like a first effort and worse, feels like an overly long episode of a sitcom pilot.
Here’s the set-up. Marjorie lives in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and tries to find some meaning or purpose in her life by attending art galleries, lectures, museums, etc. Marjorie is married to Ira, a retired...wait for it...allergist, who now runs a free clinic.
Marjorie’s mother Frieda lives in a condo down the hall and does little but talk about her bowel movements. Finally, Marjorie’s best friend, Lee, is a name-dropping free spirit who leads Marjorie on a series of adventures. That’s it. That’s the play. Wake me up when the next show comes on.
It’s not Arlington Theatre or Director Andy Baldwin’s fault that nothing fresh can be molded out of this stale material; it’s only their fault that it was included in an otherwise eclectic season. Brandi Andrade (Lee) and Barbara Bierbrier (Frieda) give one-note performances in one-note roles.
Fortunately Elias Taylorson breathes some much-needed nuances and fun in the role of go-with-the-flow Ira. And finally Cindee Mayfield is brilliant, as always, as the fussily neurotic Marjorie.