Stars in Alignment for BCP’s TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE

by Walter Bender
Marsha Mason, David Garrison and Marilu Henner in a scene from THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST'S WIFE at Bucks County Playhouse. (Photo credit: Mandee Kuenzle)

Marsha Mason, David Garrison and Marilu Henner in a scene from THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE at Bucks County Playhouse. (Photo credit: Mandee Kuenzle)

Bucks County Playhouse has been a source of outstanding entertainment throughout its history. There have been many times when performers from TV, stage, and film have worked at the theatre. The current production continues that tradition, pulling out the stops with the cast of THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE by Charles Busch.

The story centers around Marjorie Taub (Marsha Mason) an aspiring writer and intellectual who normally spends her days and evenings in a relentless pursuit of culture. Her husband Ira (David Garrison) a retired allergist who has become a pseudo-celebrity, going on the lecture and radio circuit, is worried about Marjorie, who it seems is depressed at her mediocrity, her husband’s dedication to serving the needs of the homeless, the relentless nagging of her mother Frieda Tuchman (Emily Jon Mitchell), and the death of her analyst. Shocking Marjorie out of her malaise is the sudden appearance (after many years) of Marjorie’s childhood friend Lee (Marilu Henner), a free spirit who seemingly knows everyone and has done everything, including inspiring Andy Warhol’s inspiration for Campbell Soup can art, Princess Di’s campaign about land mines, and many other experiences. Marjorie is thrilled to have Lee back in her life and invites her to stay with the Taubs. And the story continues…with several surprising twists and turns, none of which I am going to divulge here…go see it for yourself!

Original BCP cast member Lynn Cohen contracted viral laryngitis and has been replaced by Mitchell. While I was disappointed not to see a veteran of the stage, I was not disappointed by the performance I saw. Mitchell went on with minimal rehearsal (and carried the script on the evening I saw it…it was her first performance) and was one of the delights of the production. She was appropriately cranky, whiney, and manipulative…a wonderful performance, and major kudos for pulling it together in one day. Mason, Garrison and Henner are the major names in the cast, and do not disappoint. Mason is an emotional roller-coaster, Garrison a self-appreciative yet charming foil. Henner is…wow, her character a whirling dervish of experiences, free-thinking, and free loving…with a hidden side that it takes much of the play for the others to figure out. The other member of this outstanding cast is Ryan Shams as Mohammed the doorman, who is also the handyman, devoted friend and protector.

Director Boyd Gaines keeps the pace of this play crackling, especially once Lee enters the fray. The audience hardly has the chance to catch their collective breath between scenes as the story moves quickly along. The set (Wilson Chin, Scenic Design) showcases a comfortable condo; lighting (Travis McHale Designer) is functional and does a wonderful job of focusing the audience’s attention on the smaller moments. Costumes (designed by Elizabeth Hope Clancy) are excellent, showing each of the character’s traits very well.

I enjoyed my evening watching this production. I confess, seeing all of these stars in one cast was almost a bit distracting, remembering them from their past performances, but they all gave a great evening’s entertainment.

Written by Charles Busch
Directed by Boyd Gaines
August 15-September 1, 2013
Bucks County Playhouse
70 South Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938

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