Skilled performances bring characters to life.
By L. CROW
A small audience gave big approval to the newest production at Oakland Center for the Arts in downtown Youngstown. "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," a play by Charles Busch will run weekends through May 7.
This dark comedy is a study in character sketches. It is intense and complex, yet completely accessible, as witnessed by the enthusiastic audience. The characters, while exaggerated, are very real. Most people will be able to relate to one or more, or even bits of all of them.
Marjorie Taub, wife of Dr. Ira Taub, brilliantly played by Paula R. Strobel, is a pathetic, lonely, and lost housewife. She pines to learn philosophy and is absorbed by the writings of Hermann Hesse, especially "Siddhartha." She blames her mother for never noticing anything of value about her, and calls herself the biggest loser, a fraud with no originality, longing for meaning.
She volunteers: Meals on Wheels, voter registration, Save the Whales ... serving everyone's needs but her own. Her depression has worsened, since the death of her therapist. She accidentally on-purposely entered a Disney shop and began dropping large, expensive figurines.
At one point she had written a book, in which Helen Keller and Plato were the main characters, which was rejected by 32 publishers.
Marjorie's husband, Dr. Ira Taub, is a retired allergist, who strives to give himself to those in need. He is a philanthropist, devoted to easing human suffering. His life energy revolves around his successes, and letters of gratitude from those he has helped.
John Wolbert's subtle depiction of Dr. Taub provided a perfect blend to Marjorie's disturbing fanaticism. Incidentally, this was Wolbert's first go at acting. Double wow!
Sparking a shift
Marjorie's mother, Frieda Tuchman, is obsessed with suppositories and detailed descriptions of her bowel movements. She freely spews the F-word, and thrives on making her daughter miserable. A character with this many quirks could easily become unconvincing, but Barbara Evans' skilled portrayal kept her real and human.
The dynamics of all the characters, especially Marjorie, shift upon the entrance of Lee Green, whom Marjorie soon discovers was a childhood best friend. Lee has become everything Marjorie dreams of. She has dabbled in a little of this and a little of that and has rubbed noses with the big-wigs of society. She was friends with the Nixons. In Berlin when the wall fell. And on and on.
Her presence reawakes Marjorie, who announces that the blankness has gone and she feels the need to ask questions of the soul. But is Lee real, or simply a figment of Marjorie's imagination, an illusion conjured up by a desperate and bored middle-aged housewife? Denise Sculli glitters as Lee, as she blows in like a breath of fresh air to relieve the stagnancy that has settled in the Taub household.
The only character that was not part of the insanity was the handy-man, Mohammed, played by Alexi Tavrou, whose small but critical role provided a link to outside reality. Tavrou is a senior at YSU, who is off to London after he graduates to work in his masters in European Classical Acting.
This play begs to be seen by a full house. The casting was perfect for this production. The energy and dynamics all come together for a performance well worth the time and money. (This play contains adult language and situations.)