What’s a woman to do after the passing of a beloved psychiatrist? Conversations with her mother only lead to mentions of bodily functions. Her husband is busy saving the world, one nose at a time. Now she only has the handy doorman to talk to, until an unexpected visitor turns her life upside down. This is THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE.
Once again, Langhorne Players have outdone themselves in the area of set design. Even stage manager JoAnne Pinto received applause during her set dressing and striking duties. Her beautifully set table complemented the homey design by the multi-talented Ken Junkins, whose photography and paintings were also featured in the lobby.
We first meet the wife, Marjorie (Laurie Hardy), in the most dramatic of positions. An uncomfortable experience in a children’s store has left her distraught and unable to make appropriate lighting decisions in her home. Luckily, her patient doorman Mohammed (Hans Peters), who sounds German but is apparently from Iraq, is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to assist her.
Hardy may have overdone the drama at times throughout the play, but she also balances it with wit, powerful monologues, and the most elegant way of storytelling with hand gestures. She must be great at charades. Peters brings calmness to an energetic set with his slow and steady dialogue, but his character would have been more believable if there wasn’t such a culture clash between his accent and his storyline.
Then we meet Ira (John P. Devennie), the allergist himself, who also happens to be a husband that’s happy to be criticized. This turns out to be ironic since the one person who has the most opportunity to criticize happens to adore him. This is in reference to his mother-in-law, Frieda (Jean Laustsen), a woman who doesn’t hold anything back, doesn’t censor herself or beat around any bushes. Naturally, she’s an audience favorite.
Devennie gives his character depth by showing his many dimensions including sarcasm, confidence, and coyness. Laustsen doesn’t need depth, she’s just as entertaining by being consistently uncensored.
Finally, we meet Lee (Lorie Baldwin), a blast from Marjorie’s past that just happens to show up at her apartment by mistake. A quintessential bohemian, Lee shares her tales from around the world, dropping names and astonishing Marjorie about all the “seeds” she’s planted in the minds of famous people, leading to some of the greatest moments in history. Lee’s presence almost seems like Marjorie’s fantasy. Even Lee’s eloquent voice puts us in a trance as she describes everything that Marjorie dreams about.
This play has something for everyone. It’s filled with references to art, literature, philosophy, and culture. There are spiritual undertones that inspire the desire to experience the best life has to offer, even with a dash of sexual revolution. One audience member pointed out that “everyone can relate to someone” in this cast. Whether it be the crazy mother, the crazy daughter, the poor man who has to deal with both, or the gypsy in all of us who craves excitement.
THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE
by Charles Busch
Directed by Pete Barsky
October 14-29, 2011
at Tyler State Park
Newtown-Richboro Rd. (Rt. 332)