An afternoon or evening of obfuscation and intellectual calisthenics with a little bit of adult humor and a lot of good life lessons stirred in gets you the final offering in the upstairs cabaret series at Cockpit in Court for the 2014 summer season. The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Directed by Linda Chambers, is a poignant and edgy comedy that puts a spin on how to live life deeper than just what is on the surface. A well-acted, brilliantly executed comic romp, this production strays from the usual murder mysteries or homey classics seen in the upstairs cabaret during Cockpit’s summer showcase, but it is opening doors for new and exciting theatrical opportunities.
In a modern show that takes place inside an apartment the distinguishing characteristics of the show’s design work falls upon the Costumer, in this case, actor Tom Wyatt. Carefully highlighting the nuances of the five characters he finds outfits that augments their personalities in noticeably thematic fashions. The character of Ira, which Wyatt plays, is a laid-back early retiree who is often seen in casual jogging suits or cardigans and comfy clothes. His wife Marjorie is featured in drab baggy things during her depressive phase but discovers more vibrant clothing once her life has been influenced by Lee. Wyatt finds the most vivaciously colorful outfits for the effervescent character of Lee and makes her look as cheery as her character’s disposition.
The one note that could stand reiterating for this production is minding the time of the scene changes. They are exorbitantly long, stretching out for long periods of twilight darkness, presumably to cover the passage of time and costume changes. The play is otherwise flawlessly paced with perfect emotional builds and setbacks, as guided by Director Linda Chambers, and these endless scene changes detract from that exceptional momentum set in place by the performers. Tightening these moments of long drawn out emptiness between scenes will ultimately improve the play’s progress.
The acting in this production is the best Cockpit in Court has had to offer this season. Even the minor character of Mohammed (Zach Bopst) exists within the genuine reality of the performance. His lines are few but his interactions with Marjorie are congenial, his accent just the right hint of present to acknowledge the character’s heritage.
As for the cantankerous kvetching old Jewish mother character of Frieda, Joan Crooks takes to the roll like a yenta to matchmaking. Her doddering physicality, particularly when leaning on the walker, indicates her severe age as well as the hard times her life has seen. Her inappropriate dialogue is timed with precision and delivered with honesty making all of her bizarre scatological comments land with that much more of a humorous notion. Her biting banter exchanged with Marjorie (Liz Boyer Hunnicutt) makes for uproarious scenes of comic melee as they try to figure out who makes less sense in their arguments.
Ira (Tom Wyatt) is the epitome of relaxed in this play. Wyatt adapts the upper west side accent of Manhattan and allows it to infuse his speech patterns as well as the actual words. His facial expressions are particularly animated, especially when he’s not the focal point of a scene but an onlooker between Marjorie and Frieda’s conflicts. Wyatt plays the egomaniacal character with a zesty flare, making him more tolerable and humble than most narcissists; an curiously versatile approach to the character.
Lee (Holly Pasciullo) is a burst of sunlight in the dreary life of Marjorie. But just like sunlight, Pasciullo’s character brightens things up while also heating them to a searing level and eventually leaving a furious blaze in her wake. Pasciullo bounces onto the scene with a jittery exuberance; warm and inviting and a personally qualified bullshit master. She’s a fine spinner of yarns, and once the sexual prowess glides into play, Pasciullo becomes a triple threat to the stage. Her wild tall tales combined with her sensual approach to interacting with Ira and Marjorie make for one intriguing ride.
As for the main character Marjorie, you would never know it was Liz Boyer Hunnicutt’s debut back to the stage after a long hiatus if you had not read her bio. Hunnicutt cuts the perfect character in this production; mastering the transitions from depths of depression to height of hysteria. Her forceful zingers, particularly when aimed at Frieda, fly fluidly from her lips and land with a harsh buzz that rolls the audiences into hysterics. Her Jewish New York accent is exceptional and her overall control on the character’s emotional expression is that of a seasoned and well-versed actor. A brilliant addition to the cast, and perfect for the lead; Hunnicutt makes remarkable work of this performance, truly making the character a fascinating entity.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife plays through August 3, 2014 at Cockpit in Court— in the upstairs Cabaret of the Theatre Building of the Community of College of Baltimore County Essex Campus- 7201 Rossville Boulevard, in Rosedale, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 840-2787, or purchase them online.