Tale Of The Allergist's Wife
January 29, 30, February 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 2010

Marjorie TaubNancy Zrake-Daniels
Lee GreenJan Labellarte-Beatty
Ira TaubDean Hiatt
Frieda TuchmanJan Kleckner
MohammedBilly Ehrlacher
Production Staff
DirectorGary Boyer
Assistant DirectorSyd Stauffer
Stage ManagerKeith Moser
Set DesignerRalph Montesano
Lighting DesignerDan Lewis
CostumerSyd Stauffer

Cast Photos
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Excellent acting supports strong characters in Pa. Playhouse's 'The Allergist's Wife'

By Dave Howell


Dave Howell is a freelance writer

February 2, 2010

''The Tale of the Allergist's Wife'' is a ''straight'' play for Charles Busch, who also wrote ''Vampire Lesbians of Sodom'' and ''Psycho Beach Party.'' ''Straight'' has a dual meaning in this case for a man who calls himself an ''actor, playwright and drag queen.''

But don't confuse this comedy/drama, directed by Gary Boyer at the Pennsylvania Playhouse, with something by, let's say, Neil Simon. And don't bring the kids.

The plot begins in the Manhattan apartment of middle-aged Marjorie (Nancy Zrake-Daniels) and Ira (Dean Hiatt). Ira is an allergist who is adored by everyone, as he often points out to his family. He has retired to teach and open a free clinic.

His wife Marjorie has just had a mini-breakdown after the death of her therapist, and destroyed a few breakable characters in a Disney store. Her life has consisted of volunteering, reading philosophy and going to cultural events. None of it seems worthwhile or raises her low self-esteem. The latter is not helped by Frieda (Jan Kleckner), her Jewish mother from hell.

Frieda gets most of the laughs with her talk of bowel movements, particularly while others are eating, and with her unexpected use of profanity. These parts are not as crude as they might sound, since they are well integrated into the plot.

Marjorie gets a mistaken visit from a real estate agent, who turns out to be her childhood friend Lee (Jan Labellarte Beatty). The two soon become best friends again. The charming Lee has the glamorous life that Marjorie lacks, and brings her back to life.

It soon becomes clear, at least to the audience, that Lee has too many stories about famous people to be believed, and she does not seem to have a permanent address. She winds up living with Marjorie and Ira. Then she comes on to Ira. And Marjorie. At the same time.

The shocked couple gear up to ask Lee to leave. The confrontation forces them, and even Frieda, to face up to themselves. But there is a happy ending.

The acting, both in the comedic and dramatic parts, is excellent, including Billy Ehrlacher in the smaller role of Mohammed the doorman. Zrake-Daniels as Marjorie, in a perfect New York City accent, lifts the audience's spirits as she slowly comes out of her depression. Hiatt, as Ira, expertly balances decency and self-satisfaction. And Beatty, as Lee, proves that you can be well past your 20s and be remarkably seductive.

Some might find this play to be just an update of the naughty comedies of the past that exist only to titillate their audiences. I think there is enough character study and social commentary to make it worthwhile. Indeed, I am waiting for ''Vampire Lesbians of Sodom'' to hit town.

Copyright © 2010, The Morning Call

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