The Hippo


Jun 26, 2019








John Conlon as Dr. Ira Taub, Deirdre Bridge as Lee Green and Sara Stuart as Marjorie Taub. Courtesy photo.

See The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife

Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord
When: Friday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 15, at 2 p.m.
Admission: Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for juniors/seniors 
Contact:, 344-4747,

Players poke fun with Tale of the Allergist’s Wife

By Kelly Sennott

 In an interview, playwright Charles Busch once admitted a major theme of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife is that everyone’s full of crap, both figuratively and, in the case of protagonist Marjorie’s mother Freida, literally. (She has gastrointestinal issues.)

It’s a play Community Players of Concord director and set designer Jim Webber thought would fit well within the company’s 2014-2015 season. It was performed 56 times Off-Broadway, 777 on Broadway, and nominated for three Tony Awards. Webber saw it in L.A. a couple years after the New York premiere, when Valerie Harper played the lead.
“It’s about people who are phonies, or to put it another way, full of crap. Everyone has an artificial layer,” Webber said during a phone interview last week. 
The most obvious example is in main character Marjorie, a doctor’s wife obsessed with New York’s arts and culture. She attends gallery openings and local theater performances and admires the city’s great writers and philosophers. Sort of.
“She’s obsessed with trying to reach the intellectual heights of the artists, but it’s something she feels she fails in doing,” Webber said. “On a level, she feels it’s beyond her ability.”
That’s where the story begins — Marjorie, exhausted and dissatisfied after her ongoing efforts to improve her mind and soul, realizes she’ll never be more than mediocre. Her meltdown at a Disney store causes her to smash several overpriced ceramic figurines and, consequently, confine herself to her high-rise condo with shades drawn.
But things shake up when Marjorie rejoins with a childhood friend — artistic, uninhibited, well-traveled Lee — who draws Marjorie out of her depression and helps improve her love life with husband Ira and her relationship with her mother. But something’s not quite right about Lee.
“At this moment, Marjorie is susceptible to becoming attracted to and put under a spell by a person who’s probably full of crap herself,” Webber said. 
The play, though tragic for Marjorie, isn’t really so tragic to viewers; if the conflict could be summed up in a hashtag, it’d probably be something like #richpeopleproblems.
“Marjorie’s also a successful doctor’s wife and lives quite a comfortable life. She has all the money and time to alleviate her problems, so really, in the long run, it’s not a terrible tragedy,” Webber said. “For us, observing these problems is kind of funny.” 
The action occurs in a post-World War II building on the Upper West Side of New York City, designed to look a bit like the apartment from Will & Grace. Though built in the ’40s and ’50s, it’s been revamped and modernized. There’s an eat-in kitchen, a living area with very tall bookshelves — remember, these people are great readers! — and big windows that look over a Manhattan park. 
The challenge in a production like this, Webber said, is that it’s very verbal, particularly for lead Sara Stuart, who plays Marjorie. Of the play’s 76 pages, she’s on 70. Stuart’s not new to the Community Players, but the mom of two boys (both theater kids; one’s at Columbia College Chicago, the other at Concord High) hasn’t played a lead role in 28 years.
Daunted but excited about the task, Stuart spent her entire Christmas break cramming lines in anticipation. Webber said he’s never known an actress who brought “more energy and excitement to doing a play.” 
“My oldest is kind of disappointed he can’t fly back to see me,” Stuart said. “But everybody’s been very excited and supportive. … I think the role hits home in a couple of ways. I’m middle-aged, as is the character, and there are a lot of ups and downs, emotionally and otherwise.”
Webber also thinks it’s relatable.
“I think anyone can identify with these characters,” Webber said. 
As seen in the February 12, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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