The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) is presenting "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," a comedy written by Charles Busch, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 14.
The play revolves around Marjorie Taub, a middle-aged Upper West Side doctor’s wife, who is devoted to mornings at the Whitney Museum, afternoons at the Museum of Modern Art and evenings at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Plunged into a mid-life crisis of Medea-like proportions, she’s shaken out of her lethargy by the reappearance of a somewhat mysterious childhood friend, Lee.
Director Michael Kharfen said he wants to have audiences laugh. “Our daily lives can be very challenging and we all need a little break by enjoying a very funny play,” he said. “Second, we get to share Charles Busch’s wonderful blend of New York and Jewish humor with its mocking and colorful expression, which is telling it like it is, from the heart, without filter.”
He said a challenge was finding the perfect cast that can create these slightly kooky characters, which he was fortunate to get with such a gifted group of actors. “With comedies, another challenge was to not have the characters become cartoonish or caricatures,” he said. “I am so grateful for the talented cast in giving us genuinely natural, funny people.”
Jack Stein plays the role of Dr. V. Ira Taub, the allergist referenced in the title of the play. "Ira is a 'helper' by nature and has retired from his practice to pursue helping the needy and disenfranchised while at the same time being the great mediator between his ever-arguing wife and mother-in-law, both to whom he's devoted," he said. "He's also a frustrated Catskills comedian, which emerges in just about everything he says and does."
He added: "Ira is great fun to play, but in such a comedic piece it is important to balance the broad with the nuanced. It's easy to go 'too big' with his character. Thanks to our terrific director, I've been able to find the humanness of this man while enjoying his bigger-than-life personality."
Janice Zucker plays the role of Frieda Tuchman, an older woman living in the same apartment house as her daughter Marjorie and her son-in-law Ira, on the upper west side of Manhattan. "She's a Jewish mother who doesn't get along with her daughter and pretty much never has," she said. "She's very sure of herself and what she believes in, and because of her age, she pretty much says whatever she is thinking. There's no filter and she doesn't hold anything back."
Marianne Meyers plays the role of Lee Green, a woman of mystery, who's worldly and glamorous. "She seems to know everyone and has been around," she said. "Lee is not necessarily trustworthy and you may not know what her true motives are; perhaps she doesn't even know herself."
She added: "I hope people laugh; the play is very funny and the show is well-cast. The dynamics between the characters are just a riot. There are wonderful questions about the meaning of life, friendship, and what makes a family work together. The audience is in for a good time."
Omar Rocha plays the role of Mohammed, who came to the U.S. from Iraq many years ago. "His father wanted to partake in the American dream and wanted his family to benefit from it, as well .... Eventually, Mohammed found his calling as a doorman; his father is quite proud of him."
Co-producer Jay A. Cohen said he wanted to produce the show because he had seen it in Florida where his mother played the role of Frieda, and he thought it was hysterical. "The fact that Michael Kharfen was directing didn't hurt as I wanted to work with him," he said.
He added: "I think it is a great play about many of life's challenges. You have Marjorie that is going through a midlife crisis and is feeling rather small as we all do from time to time. You have Lee who is the free spirit we all wish to be, and the unfortunate Frieda who is how we will eventually wind up. I think from these three any of us can identify."
Assistant Producer Brooke Angel said she wanted to produce the show because, "I'm actually friends with producer Jay Cohen outside of theatre, and he approached me with the possibility of becoming a producer-in-training. I was both honored and thrilled to be asked, so I immediately said 'yes.' I must have been half asleep, because I said 'yes' to being assistant producer, co-stage manager, and to help on set construction."
She added: "I would love for the audience to walk out of the theater thinking, 'Gee, I thought my life was weird; these people are plain crazy.' This play is nothing short of 'Frasier' category humor: intellectual references mixed with modern-day humor tactics."
Co-producer Jim Howard said he’s seen this show at least two times before. “Once, I barely sat through the production, and the second time I thoroughly enjoyed it. So I was curious as to how (director) Michael (Kharfen) would bring to life this comedy. He has succeeded in keeping me laughing throughout all the rehearsals,” he said.
The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) is presenting "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," from Oct. 24 to Nov. 14. Showtimes are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $19 to $22. The venue is located at 600 Wolfe St., Alexandria. Visit the website at www.thelittletheatre.com.