Lifestyles of the rich, pretentious

Colonial Players offers an amusing production of the Broadway hit `The Tale of the Allergist's Wife'

Arundel Live

October 28, 2005|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On a May 2001 theater trip, we caught the Broadway hit The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, which struck me then as little better than most television sitcoms. The best things about the Broadway version were the performances by actresses Linda Lavin and Michele Lee.

On opening night, the Colonial Players' production of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife seemed as silly and now even outdated with less sympathetic characters. But it does offer surprising rewards not evident in the Broadway version I saw 4 1/2 years ago.

The plot centers on wealthy Marjorie Taub, who lives in a $900,000 empty-nest Manhattan condo with her recently retired husband, Dr. Ira Taub, who runs an allergy clinic for the homeless and mentors young allergists. Marjorie is suffering a midlife crisis brought on by the death of her longtime psychiatrist.

Adding to Marjorie's misery is the fact that her overbearing mother, Frieda, is ensconced in the same building. Frieda frequently criticizes her daughter's shortcomings - when she's not complaining about her own dysfunctional digestive system.

Just when Marjorie seems confined to the despair of her endless pursuit of cultural fulfillment, her life changes with the coincidental arrival of her former childhood friend, Lee, who seems to be living the life Marjorie dreams of - surrounded by a veritable who's who of celebrities.

In an entertaining two hours, director Edd Miller delves beneath the surface of these cultural poseurs to reveal his characters' strengths and vulnerabilities. In doing so in this intimate in-the-round venue, he seemingly holds a mirror up to our own lives.

As Marjorie, Mary MacLeod gradually reveals her character's frustrations and strengths, often doing so with great comic flair. Although Marjorie can be tiresome in her celebrity worship and espousing au courant philosophies, she genuinely seeks a deeper knowledge and views herself with humor. Articulate and funny, she eagerly offers her trust and affection to her long-lost friend Lee. Whether in despair or happily espousing a newly adapted cause, MacLeod's Marjorie is always believable, even when involved in mundane tasks like chopping peppers for a salad.

On opening night, Nick Beschen, as Dr. Taub, experienced some timing problems in early scenes. The problems lessened as the evening progressed, and Beschen conveyed his character's patience, susceptibility to flattery and warmth, providing some high comic moments as he adjusts to Lee's sensual game playing.

As Marjorie's childhood friend, Dianne Hood has the necessary panache, is adept at name-dropping, knows how to revitalize Marjorie's adventurous spirit and stirs up her hosts' unsuspected feelings with her outrageously seductive maneuvers.

Projecting a pleasant warmth, Omar Said makes the most of the minor role of well-educated Iraqi doorman Mohammed, who is the sole member of Marjorie's book club when she is desperately alone.

Rosemary Feeney is a constant delight as Frieda, getting the most out of every gag and stealing nearly every scene she graces. She gets the Jewish humor exactly right and seems at home delivering colorful Yiddish expressions.

Contributing to the success of this production is multitalented Miller's sophisticated set, Barbara Ripani's costumes and Harvey Hack's lights.

Colonial Players warns that this production deals with mature themes and contains language to match.

Thursday through Sunday performances of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife continue through Nov. 12. Reservations: 410-268-7373.

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