By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
Unlike Leiser, Marjorie isn't grounded -- either as written, or as acted by Ashley Crockett. She's pretty funny, a sort of stick with a mop of frizzy hair who weeps, hurls herself onto the furniture in her bathrobe, dissects Nadine Gordimer and laments the book that she herself never finished writing: an homage to Thomas Pynchon that incorporates the ideas of some of the world's greatest thinkers and proves that punctuation is a hindrance to the revitalization of the novel. It's hard to tell whether we're supposed to sympathize with this woman, even as we laugh at her, or whether she's intended as pure caricature. Either way, Crockett hasn't quite gotten under her skin. Mark David Nelson, playing the husband, also seems a little unsure on his feet.
Enter Susan D'Autremont as long-lost friend Lee Green, posing around the set like Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous and dropping a hailstorm of names: James Baldwin, Henry Kissinger. It was Lee who alerted Princess Diana to the harm caused by unexploded land mines, Lee who served soup to Andy Warhol and set him off in an entirely new artistic direction.
Marjorie buys the whole thing. She invites Lee to move in and trails her around town, now finding joy in her usual round of concerts, obscure lectures and esoteric art events. Marjorie snaps out of her lethargy and becomes happy. But who is Lee Green really? Is she a figment of Marjorie's imagination, a doppelgänger, a golem or just a talented freeloader?
D'Autremont shares Leiser's knack for taking over a stage. As they work with her and the action progresses, Crockett and Nelson also become more believable. Unfortunately, by the second act -- having sketched in his characters and having had some pretty hilarious jokes at their expense -- playwright Charles Busch appears to have lost his way. Mother Frieda keeps complaining about her intestines, but her riskiest and funniest moments are over -- as when she chided Marjorie for planning a visit to Germany, reminding her of a "little thing called the Holocaust." There are some muddled plot twists. Then Marjorie gives a big speech about how her little family, despite its failings, represents a positive army, and it sounds as if the playwright is reaching for a pat happy ending, one that negates all the acerbic wit that's held the play aloft.
Despite all this, under Nicholas Sugar's direction, Allergist's Wife provides an entertaining evening. The otherworldly stranger who intrudes into everyday life and shakes everything up is a common dramatic device, and even if the puzzle pieces make a blurry picture when they've fallen, it's fun watching Lee and Marjorie hurl them into the air.