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The Tale of the Allergist's Wife

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Reviewed by Victor Gluck

Presented by Manhattan Theatre Club, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Daryl Roth, Stuart Thompson, and Douglas S. Cramer at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St., NYC. Opened Nov. 2 for an open run.

If you were afraid that Charles Busch's uproarious play, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" would lose something in the transfer to Broadway, rest assured that the Manhattan Theatre Club production has not only weathered the change, but seems to have grown. Whatever changes director Lynne Meadow has made are only for the better.

Not that the play or the wonderful performances by Linda Lavin, Michele Lee, or Shirl Bernheim are different, but that the evening seems to be even more expansive. Surely Santo Loquasto's impressive setting for the West Side apartment of Marjorie and Ira Taub has become larger.

Busch's first Broadway play, and probably his best, concerns the mid-life crisis of Marjorie, the allergist's wife. Her therapist has died, plunging her into a deep depression. Her life of the 92nd Street Y, Kierkegaard, Japan House, and volunteer work for AIDS doesn't satisfy anymore. Enter her old school friend, Lee Green, who she has not seen since junior high. Lee has done all the things that Marjorie wishes she had. How Lee becomes a catalyst for change for the Taubs—and then turns out not to be what she seems—makes up the plot.

In the role of her career, Lavin runs the gamut of Jewish angst, with a good deal of parody of intellectual pretension thrown in. Lee, as the best friend, scintillates with vitality and vivacity. Bernheim gets a laugh on everyone of her lines as the anal-retentive mother whose physical problem is a metaphor for the family's repression.

The men are equally fine. Tony Roberts is excellent as the supportive husband who is afraid to express an opinion for fear of disappointing someone. Anil Kumar brings authenticity to the role of the Iranian doorman who is always available when his advice is needed.

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