'Allergist's Wife' raises the curtain on Bowie's ambitious season

  • From left, Edye Smith as Lee, Timothy Sayles as Ira, Christine Conroy Smith as Marjorie, Hillary Mazer as Frieda and Uday Berry as Mohammed in the Bowie Community Theatre production of "The Tale of the Allergists Wife."
From left, Edye Smith as Lee, Timothy Sayles as Ira, Christine… (Photo by Bud Johnson for…)
August 01, 2013|By Mary Johnson, For The Baltimore Sun

When Bowie Community Theatre announced its 2013-2014 season, it promised a bold trio of plays that are largely undiscovered — a move that represented a departure from past seasons.

The company's 47th season opened with a perplexing comedy dealing with adult themes, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," a show that easily qualifies as groundbreaking fare for Bowie.

When Charles Busch's play premiered on Broadway in 2000, Ben Brantley, the famed New York Times critic, pronounced it "a nimble sitcom of a play that pushes at the edges of its form."

Bowie's production, which ended its run on July 27, continued pushing those edges as it drifted from drama to comedy. It also reflected the penchant for risk-taking by John Nunemaker, Bowie's president and director of this production, who explores new territory and ferrets out honesty amid pretension.

The central character, Marjorie Taub, neurotic wife of respected and retired allergist Ira Taub, lives in an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment where she is in the midst of a midlife crisis. The recent death of her therapist precipitates a meltdown in a Disney store where she destroys several costly figurines.

Marjorie attends theaters and museums for self-betterment, but remains convinced of her mediocrity. That self-assessment is reinforced by her mother, Frieda, who lives down the hall — adding to Marjorie's distress.

Patient husband Ira fails to comfort Marjorie, and in fact only the Iraqi doorman, Mohammed, is capable of offering insightful encouragement.

Marjorie's life brightens when a childhood friend, free-spirited Lee Green, appears and seems to be leading the life Marjorie has craved. Lee moves into the Taubs' spare bedroom, and soon suggests Ira and Marjorie relax their inhibitions to experience sexual freedom, which disturbs their 31-year marriage.

As Marjorie, Christine Conroy Smith seemed overly dramatic at times, and frequently more pitiable than comic. But she had her moments and was funniest as she frantically forbade her mother's physician to set a third colonoscopy appointment within a six-month period.

Veteran actor Timothy Sayles, who has brightened past 2nd Star and Colonial Players productions, debuted at Bowie Community Theatre as Ira Taub, delivering an understated, credible performance.

Providing major hilarity, Hilary Mazer as Frieda portrayed the feisty, foul-mouthed mother, complaining about her intestinal difficulties with excursions into rants about anti-Semites and Marjorie's shortcomings.

Uday Berry impressed as doorman Mohammed, proving a skilled comedian when increasingly distressed by the Taubs' angry confrontations as he furiously stuffs food into his mouth.

Edye Smith, as Lee Green, brought the comedy to vibrant life from the moment she appears. Smartly stylish and deliciously sensuous, Smith's Green projects a worldliness that might convince us of her actually enjoying friendships with Jack Kerouac, Andy Warhol and Jack Nicholson.

Superb direction and comedic talent combine for a stellar opening to Bowie's season in a show that's perhaps the best-known of the three offerings of the company's full 47th season.

Coming attractions

Next on the schedule for Nov. 8-24 is a work that had its New York City premier in 1992, "The Cover of Life," by R. T. Robinson. Set during World War II, the story tells of three young Louisiana housewives who are Life Magazine cover subjects.

The story behind the perfect cover photo is pursued by Life journalist Kate Miller, who discovers the less than perfect lives of the women photographed. Each of the three has different goals and approaches, but all are determined to be good wives as they wait for their husbands.

"The Cover of Life" appears a well-crafted work that examines women's issues confronted in 1943 with emotional and political melodrama and humor.

Scheduled for Feb. 28-March 16 is Bowie's third show of the season: "Dark Passages" by Shannon Michal Dow, Jan Henson Dow and Robert Schroeder. This show only became available for production in 2012. The show is set in the 1980s in upper New York State, where seven characters confront a frightening situation in their quiet little college town.

Women have been attacked in the area, and Bret is terrified that her missing best friends are the latest victims. A jealous boyfriend and a creepy landlord add to the tensions, and when a detective with a colorful past arrives to investigate the disappearances, this little whodunit twists and turns its way to a scary conclusion.

Bowie Community Theatre, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive in Bowie, is offering a limited number of discounted tickets for its productions through Goldstar.com. Tickets may also be ordered online at bctheatre.com. Call 301-805-0219 for details.

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