ARLINGTON -- Ignore the title. This show is nothing to sneeze at.
Theatre Arlington's production of The Tale of Allergist's Wife, which opened Friday, is a bitterly insightful comedy that keeps you guessing what its next move is going to be. And the anticipation it creates is as absolutely delicious as the payoffs it delivers.
The action plays out in the fashionable New York apartment of retired allergist Ira (Elias Taylorson) and his wife, Marjorie (Cindee Mayfield). She is having some emotional problems, and her acerbic and foul-mouthed mother, Frieda (Barbara Bierbrier) is not helping. Like it would kill her to be nice to her daughter. Oy vey.
Into this slightly disheveled household strides Lee (Brandi Andrade), a long-lost childhood friend who is a sort of fully rational Forrest Gump. She has been everywhere and done everything, and drops the names of the rich and famous more rapidly than a gossip columnist while calling all her friends. To say she shakes things up is like saying the Titanic encountered a little turbulence.
What ensues in this Tony-nominated play by Charles Busch, which debuted in 2000, is a sly and deft deconstruction of all the personalities involved. The sharp and witty dialogue rides the waves of a constantly shifting plot that never lets you go.
The acting in this show is just crazy good. All of the principals make you feel no other actors could play the parts. And they all understand how to support as well as lead. It is a joy to watch them all work, separately and together.
Director Andy Baldwin is justly known for his work with farces. But this production makes it clear that he can be just as effective when the humor is more mental than physical. He does an excellent job of guiding and harnessing all the talent he has in this show.
Some may find the script to be too New York-centric. These characters do sometimes sound like escapees from a Woody Allen movie. But the performances are so strong that they both elevate the material and make it play in Peoria. You should go, already.