The Tale of the Allergist's Wife | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Tale of the Allergist's Wife 

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Charles Busch, author of the gender-bending fringe hits Psycho Beach Party and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, went mainstream with this crossover Broadway success, playing here in a national touring edition staged by Lynne Meadow (artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Club, where the play premiered). Packed with Jewish-mother gags, New York in-jokes, and sometimes arcane literary humor--including the culture-vulture heroine's improbably perfect pronunciation of such names as Hermann Hesse, Gunter Grass, and Thomas Mann--The Tale of the Allergist's Wife stars Valerie Harper as Marjorie Taub, a middle-aged Riverside Drive matron gripped by depression following the death of her psychiatrist. Along comes Lee Green (nee Lillian Greenblatt), a long-lost childhood friend who has reinvented herself as a modern-day Auntie Mame. Lee (the mischievous and seductive Jana Robbins) rouses Marjorie from her self-pitying torpor--and inspires her to defy the oppressive influences of her overachieving husband and her mother, an overbearing kvetch obsessed with constipation and the Holocaust. She turns out to be a provocateur as well as a liberator, forcing Marjorie to confront long-unresolved conflicts and embrace exciting but threatening new possibilities. Busch, a Northwestern University alum, is an unabashed fan of Evanston-bred novelist Patrick Dennis--Auntie Mame's inventor--and that influence is happily evident in this comedy's bitchy wit, coy sexual ambiguity, and deft mixing of extravagant eccentricity and mildly conservative morality. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 312-902-1400. Through January 19: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 and 7:30 PM. Then January 21-26: Tuesday, 7:30 PM; Wednesday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $22-$65. The 2 PM show Saturday, January 18, is sign interpreted; call 312-977-1700.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Bennion.

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