You would think that Marjorie Taub would be the last person to have a midlife crisis.
She’s financially well-off, has a posh West Side Manhattan condo, could travel if she wished. She could shop ’til she dropped. Kids are grown. Good health. Few problems.
Yet, these days and nights Marjorie flops around the house like a dying diva, bored, coming off a bout of depression, a failed novelist – a plot involving Plato and Helen Keller didn’t sell. She mopes, she screams: “Never have I had one original thought!”
Marjorie’s pompous husband, irritating Ira, a retired allergist, is at a loss and no help. Her aged mother, Freida, who lives down the hall, is a negative, glued-to-her-walker harridan with an obsession about her bowels and loves to relate colorful details - lots of suppository humor and colon jokes - about her condition at dinner, particularly. So, there are live-with, minor life-issues. Still, ennui prevails: Marjorie’s a mess.
“The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” is written by Charles Busch, a playwright best known as a female impersonator. “Cinematic parodies” are his specialty, 1930s-’40s elegant ladies splendidly suffering. He introduces Marjorie, Ira, Freida and some important others in a chatty, often preachy but very funny story of marriage, real friends and self-worth, or as Marjorie better puts it in the play’s final minutes, “love, acceptance, faith and family.”
“Allergist’s Wife” was a surprise Broadway hit for Busch in 2007-08, logging nearly 800 performances. RSDP Productions has brought a first-rate revival of the play to the Lancaster Opera House, Susan Toomey directing and starring as Marjorie and once more - it’s a habit with this Southtowns troupe - she heads an acting clinic. The estimable Toomey has brought along the priceless Dolores Mendolia as Freida; award-winning Pamela Rose Mangus as Lee; one of WNY’s premier leading men, Peter Palmisano as Ira; and young Andrew Starr as the doorman, Mohammed.
Some more of the tale: Marjorie feels her life wasting. “I’m hungry for meaning!” says she. She seeks self-help seminars, graduate courses, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Kafka.
Into Marjorie’s life charges an old childhood friend, Lee, a free-spirit, world-traveler, a done-this, been-there kook. Lee also is a notorious name-dropper. She’s on a first-name basis with Henry Kissinger, was a confidante of Pat Nixon, a best bud to Jack Kerouac and inspired Andy Warhol. Like Woody Allen’s Zelig, Lee has been a witness to a litany of historical events. Oh, and she’s been in a Fassbinder film, scaled an Alp. Sure.
All of this – Lee, a Muse, and her influence over Marjorie – causes havoc in house and marriage. “Allergist” takes a kinky turn. Freida gets crankier, suspicions mount as to Lee’s credibility and purpose. About this time, life gets very complicated for all and resolve looks improbable. In truth, “Allergist” ends tentatively, make that unsatisfactorily. But a nightlong parade of Busch one-liners – the best of them from the feisty Freida, the rest from Marjorie, on-target zingers while pained – make the lame ending of this Busch sit-com easy to take. Laugher, barbs, retorts, adult situations, conversations and opinions – even if wildly diverse and improbable – are delivered with style and impeccable timing. Director Toomey at work.
“The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife:” fast-paced and funny. RSDP at the top of their game. Again.
What: “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife”
Where: Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster
When: Through Sunday