Thursday, January 24, 2013
Theater review: The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at Theatre Arlington is ménage à crazy
It's dangerous, sexy, and entertaining.
ARLINGTON Manhattan Theatre Club has a knack of rolling the first ball of theatrical brilliance, giving it an impeccable reputation. The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife was no exception when it opened in early 2000. Theatre Arlington keeps that brilliance ball moving with their rendition of Charles Busch’s saucy serio-comedy.
Marjorie Taub has, like many of us tortured artists, exhausted her own intellect. With an impressive resume of extended historical literature and museums mixed with a laundry list of philanthropic endeavors, Marjorie has convinced herself that she is and never will be anything more than mediocre…at best. Her children grown and her therapist passed away, she is in the shadows of her husband’s booming doctoral limelight, combined with the constant disgruntled verbose beat downs of her seasoned (and quite constipated) Jewish mother. Marjorie has reached her breaking point of no return. An unexpected encounter with a childhood friend stokes a once extinguished fire within her. Fulfilling desires and blowing away previous sexual boundaries only to discover that her new friend and house-guest may have quickly overstayed her welcome.
Director Andy Baldwin dove headfirst and delivered a well-made play. His direction and attention to detail fueled the actors’ connected moments of genuine honesty, many of the scenes around the dinner table or when Marjorie is approached about her life are a few to take note of. Being able to get fully lost in the world of the play as well as explore a world of internal chaos amidst gems hilarity inside dark intimate places was a treat thanks to Mr. Baldwin.
At the helm, Marjorie Taub is played to absolute perfection by Cindee Mayfield, who captures the elegance of a New York City homemaker while exploiting the internal tribulations of a woman in search of ultimate life purpose yet coming up short. Ms. Mayfield was never afraid to go the distance when it came to exploring her character in its entirety and it was intoxicating to view and experience. She brought you into her character’s heart with soft and sensual moments such as with her husband Ira, then not a moment later her claws were out, attempting to maneuver the Internet for the first time to hire a hit man to kill her mother. Her comedic timing was flawless and her moment-to-moment presence with Mr. Busch’s text, her environment, and to her fellow actors was like taking a breath of fresh air.
Mr. Taylorson was like watching a fish in water; he was so at ease and at home with his choices of actions and delivery. He had me hooked from minute one, and the alluring energy never faltered. He commanded the presence of a well-educated doctoral shepherd while maintaining the husband with a heart of gold. From his accurate accent work to his portrayal of Ira’s lovable narcissism, Elias was splendid!
Um…Betty White who? With Barbara Bierbrier as Marjorie’s quirky mother Frieda, she is giving any and every golden girl in this business a run for her money. The character Ms. Bierbrier created was unapologetic and zesty, and topped it off with comedic genius. You never know what was about to pop out of her mouth next and her timing was perfect. She was the quintessential sour icebreaker complete with outbursts at pivotal personal moments. She is a character you never want in your own life, but you can’t wait to see what she does to someone else’s. As Ira says in the play “She is an equal opportunist F*@! You-er!” From me to you, ‘Well done Lady Bierbrier, you had me at suppository!’
Brandi Andrade as the adventurous vixen Lee Green was delightful and delicious. She created a character with stellar sensuality and a playful spirit, especially when all are deciding if she is real or imaginary. Yes, that happens (Note: not a plot spoiler). Her accent choice for Lee was confusing, at times even a little distracting, especially when we first meet her. However, Andrade relaxed and really came to life in Act II with Green’s renditions of fanciful stories of her many adventures. “I always travel with a wok and three pairs of false eyelashes”, she says as she floats across the stage dripping with intrigue. You wanted to hate Lee for breaking up a 32 year marriage, but when you realize her intentions are equal opportunity, well, I daresay you ended up loving her enticing attitude and there is not a dry seat in the house.
Rounding out the cast is young Stephen Warren as Mohammed. His look was perfect for the role of this shy imported New York doorman and Mr. Warren embodied a very soothing control that was lovely to observe. However, although he looked the part and had a charismatic charm to him, his accent was nondescript and inconsistent and he simply looked uncomfortable on the stage. His best scene was at the very end of the play when you saw his face and body easily responding and relishing in the moment he was sharing with Marjorie. I have had the pleasure of seeing this young man on stage before and with his ever growing resume of prodigious education, there is no doubt he is and can be quite impressive. I hope that Mr. Warren took notes from his seasoned and supportive cast mates and I’m eager to see what he comes out with next.
Kudos to Scenic Designer Bob Lavallee who created a playing space for actors like it was a candy house for kids. All you had to do was look at the set to see the stories it tells. From the outdated chandelier to the open terrace and sleek shelving, it was perfect.
Bryan Stevenson was brilliant in his lighting design, keeping them subtle but engaging and excitingly dangerous. I loved the way the lights never went completely black in the scene changes, but faded into hues of deep purples and hot pinks to keep the tone of the play viscerally alive as the cast and crew set the upcoming scene.
Jordana Abrenica deserved a standing ovation. This piece, with its emotional ups and downs mixed with sarcasm and sexuality, required a Sound Designer who could find every last one of those moments and feed them without over-stuffing. Every song, every sound was flawless, there were even moments when I myself didn’t know if the sounds were actually from outside or if they were chosen by Ms. Abrenica.
Meredith Hinton was nothing less that spot on in her apparel decisions. She captured each character’s inner bliss and turmoil and created an appropriate outer representation. As Marjorie is evolving as a character it was lovely watching Marjorie shed a dowdy nightgown and pants to a saucy Vera Wang and pearls. All the while Frieda, a fabulous New York silver fox was always rocking a bedazzled windbreaker jacket and a pair of slacks. Ms. Hinton completed the perfect stage picture.
I would also like to acknowledge Cheyney Coles for incredibly solid and smooth stage transitions. To have as great a show as this one, behind it is a great stage manager who keeps calm, keeps in control and runs a tight, but happy ship. Needless to say, this show was without a doubt a reflection of Ms. Coles’ positive organization and hard work.
It is truly rare when a piece of theater is able to completely and fully captivate someone like me. It takes a very unique discipline, strict dedication and amusing emotional dive into what can sometimes be the ugly truth of life. Theatre Arlington’s cast and crew of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife created a show that was dangerous, sexy and entertaining and was without a doubt the best that I have seen in longer than I can even acknowledge.
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