Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” onstage now at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, under the direction of Timothy E. Locklear, is a funny, dark little tale of a woman, Marjorie Taub (Christine Rogers), who is facing a sort of crisis in her life. Disengaged with her upper-class life and coming down (up?- it’s hard to tell) from a breakdown, she is desperately seeking change and a “shaking up” of things, which she finds when a friend from long ago, Lee Greene (Jean Jamison) bursts back into her life.
The NRACT set, designed by Mike Raab, perfectly captures the upper echelon that is Marjorie’s life. Featuring a real upper west side apartment feel, complete with Art Deco touches and fanciful paintings, the carefully-designed set serves as the perfect backdrop to the unfolding and believable lives featured on stage.
And they are just that- real, believable lives, for Busch’s script, though not perfect, is highly true-to-life. Other than a few places where the dialogue falls flat, it is mostly funny, biting, and witty, as are the portrayals of the sharply-drawn characters in this production. Rogers is good as the confused and “on the brink” Marjorie while Gilly Conklin truly shines in her role as Frieda Tuchman, Marjorie’s griping, elderly mother. Conklin is hilarious, with a real knack for comedic timing, and her performance carries the show through some of its tougher moments. Also adding light comic relief is Abhilash Kunnatoor Margabandu’s performance as Mohammed, The Doorman, who serves as a confidante for Marjorie.
The richly-written family dynamic is one of the script’s strongest points, and the chemistry between the actors really serves to bring that teasing, imperfect, but ultimately lovable dynamic to life. Costuming touches by Ann Haigler highlight the similarities between mother and daughter, a nice little touch that adds a subtle layer of subtext to the pair’s interactions as well. The costumes, in fact, are excellent throughout; Haigler does a particularly good job outfitting the vivid, wild Lee in vivid, wild colors that suit her personality, as well as her purpose in the script.
Full of laughs and cultural color along the way, “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” is ultimately a coming of age story, a story of self-acceptance, and of family acceptance too. A bit like a grown-up, slightly raunchy “Cat in the Hat,” in that the characters only learn a lesson when someone comes in and turns their world upside down, this is an interesting “thinker” of a play that is certainly worth a watch.
The North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE at 3 p.m. April 17, 8 p.m. April 21-23, and 3 p.m. April 24 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $10 Thursday, $17 Friday and Saturday ($14 students, teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), and $15 Sunday ($12 students, teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (2000 Off-Broadway and 2000 Broadway comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/1096/tale-of-the-allergists-wife-the (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.charlesbusch.com/The%20Tale%20of%20the%20Allergist’s%20Wife.htm (Charles Busch’s website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/129 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/10305 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_the_Allergist’s_Wife (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Charles Busch (New York City playwright and screenwriter): http://www.charlesbusch.com/ (official website), http://charlesbusch.blogspot.com/ (his blog), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/1940 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/74592 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0123958/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/charlesbusch.page (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/thecharlesbusch (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Busch (Wikipedia).
Timothy E. Locklear (Wake Forest, NC director and managing director of North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre): https://www.facebook.com/telock335 (Facebook page) and http://www.abouttheartists.com/artists/492075-timothy-e-locklear (AboutTheArtists bio).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.