Linda Lavin's Fine Whine Runs Dry in Bway's Tale July 29

By Kenneth Jones
29 Jul 2001

Michele Lee and Linda Lavin in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.
Michele Lee and Linda Lavin in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.
Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus

Marjorie Taub, the title character of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, is so depressed about her Upper West Side life, she actually stoops.

Marjorie Taub, the title character of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, is so depressed about her Upper West Side life, she actually stoops.

As embodied by Tony Award-nominated Linda Lavin, the lady with the rounded shoulders practically dragged her knuckles on the floor, making audiences roar since the show's beginnings Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club. On July 29, Lavin exits the production, and the company anticipates a new "wife" in Valerie Harper, July 31.

Lavin, remembered for her Tony-winning turn in Broadway Bound, the recent revival of Gypsy, and TV's "Alice," was nominated for a 2001 Best Actress Tony Award for her work in Tale. The play by Charles Busch, at the Barrymore Theatre, was nominated for a Best Play Tony, and Michele Lee was nommed for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Lee plays a childhood friend (named Lee), who shakes up Marjorie and her complacent husband (played by Tony Roberts) in Busch's comedy, about searching for a sense of purpose and happiness after age 50. Anil Kumar is the doorman and Shirl Bernheim is Majorie's prickly mother.



The whine began flowing freely on Broadway beginning Oct. 11, 2000, when Lavin began previews as a deeply discontented Upper West Side married lady, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The urban comedy — a sellout hit at Off-Broadway's MTC in the spring — officially opened on Broadway Nov. 2. MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow directed the production.

Harper was a stage actress before breaking into TV and memorably playing Rhoda Morgenstern in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and her own spinoff, "Rhoda." In 1998, she played author Pearl S. Buck in All Under Heaven, Off-Broadway.

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For the Broadway Allergist's Wife, MTC partners with producers Carol Shorenstein Hays, Daryl Roth, Stuart Thompson and Douglas S. Cramer. The cost to mount the show was $1.6 million, and the money has been recouped.

Designers are Santo Loquasto (set), Ann Roth (costumes), Christopher Akerlind (lighting) and Bruce Ellman (sound).

Tale was originally told Feb. 8-April 16, 2000 (it opened Feb. 29) at MTC's Stage II. Word of mouth, plus solid reviews, fueled a sellout.

Playwright Busch is the popular drag performer and scribe whose work includes Psycho Beach Party, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Green Heart and Die! Mommy! Die!

Lee was the strong-willed Karen on TV's "Knots Landing," appeared in the film, "How to Succeed Without Really Trying," and sang the songs of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields in Broadway's Seesaw (earning a Tony Award nomination).

Show tune fans know Lavin for a memorable secretary role in the cult Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical, It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman.

Roberts appeared in Play It Again Sam, Sugar and Victor/Victoria on Broadway, and Woody Allen's film, "Annie Hall," among other pictures.

Bernheim appeared in the world premiere of Old Lady's Guide to Survival at The Humana Festival of New American Plays (and later Off-Broadway), and as Miss Lynch in Grease on Broadway and on tour. She is veteran of many American regional theaters.

Kumar made his Broadway debut in The Public Theater's Macbeth and was Dilip in the American premiere of Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink.

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Broadway tickets are $30-$70. The Barrymore Theatre is at 243 W. 47th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway. Call (212) 239-6200 for information.