Chicago Sun-Times review by Hedy Weiss Confession No. 1: I loathed Charles Busch's satire "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" when it came to Chicago several years ago in a post-Broadway national tour that starred Valerie Harper. And when I learned that Highland Park's Apple Tree Theatre was planning to revive it -- and to tap such exceptional actors as Paula Scrofano, John Reeger, Hollis Resnik and Renee Matthews to devote their time and energy to it -- I thought: What a waste of talent. Confession No. 2: I was wrong. Assemble a cast like the one just listed. Call on Chicago-bred actor-turned-director Kurt Johns (repatriated from New York) to perfectly modulate the play's crass, crazy and gerontologically scatological excesses. Busch's comedy of manners for the "culturati class" of Manhattan's Upper West Side takes on a new quality. Even the title, a twist on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, begins to make sense. The plot is part classic marital farce, part Roman comedy, part diary of a mad housewife, part Borscht Belt routine, part zany update of the mystical Jewish legend of "The Golem" -- and, finally, 100 percent pure middle-brow entertainment with a side of smarts. The Apple Tree production, which opened Sunday night, gets it absolutely right. All that's missing is a Zabar's shopping bag.
Chicago Tribune review by Chris Jones
Those of us with eclectic tastes wouldn't want to see Apple
Tree overdoing this kind of thing. But this
theater sure could use a mainstream, popular hit (for one thing, its lease expires
in August and it needs the city of Highland Park to come through
with a new space). Kurt Johns' perfectly
solid production — which
showcases the real-life, old-school, husband-and-wife team
of Paula Scrofano and John Reeger — should serve that
purpose in the coming weeks.
Johns' production is well paced...cleverly cast and it ripples along very pleasantly. And the tricky, farce-serious tone mostly is pitched about right. "Allergist's" looked too small and trivial when it played downtown a couple of years ago as part of a Broadway tour...the piece looks far more comfortable in Apple Tree's intimate little space. Therein, practiced Chicago hands have a great old time.
Copley News Servicereview by Dan Zeff "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" is a sturdy mainstream comedy that originated from an unlikely source, playwright-actor Charles Busch. Before the play opened on Broadway, Busch was known as the king (or perhaps the queen) of campy off-Broadway theater with bizarre comedies like "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" and "Psycho Beach Party." The Apple Tree Theatre is reviving Busch's play and restoring most of the laughs that were obliterated by the vulgarized touring production. The show gets its humor from all kinds of in jokes-some about Jewish life and many about literature, including numerous references to Hermann Hesse, perhaps the most unread great writer of the 20th century. The whole concoction is directed with nice comic sensibility by Kurt Johns. Richard and Jacqueline Penrod have designed the handsome apartment interior. The rest of the designer credits go to Elizabeth Powell Shaffer (costumes), Jacqueline Reid (lighting), and Scott Miller (sound). Well done all round.
The show gets a rating of 3 1/2 stars.
Stead Style Chicago review by Joe Stead
Charles Busch is best known as the playwright and star of such gender-bending comedies as "Psycho Beach Party," "The Lady in Question" and "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom". Six years ago, he turned his efforts on a more commercially accessible yet still edgy comedy, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife." The play enjoyed a successful run on Broadway and tour with a series of former sitcom stars (Linda Lavin, Valerie Harper and Rhea Perlman). And now the play makes its Chicago area regional premiere with an A-list cast at Apple Tree Theatre. Director Kurt Johns has at his disposal one of the dreamiest Chicago Equity casts imaginable. Real-life husband and wife Paula Scrofano and John Reeger join with local dynamos Hollis Resnik and Renee Matthews to deliver a riotously paced performance. Scrofano's desperation is as anguished as it is hilarious, with Reeger supplying the benign charm, Resnik the smoldering sensuality and Matthews the angst-ridden guilt. They are a superb quartet (Vishal Patel completes the cast in a cameo role as an Iraqi doorman) that gets the most mileage... The terrific Manhattan apartment setting is another feather in the cap for the accomplished designers Richard & Jacqueline Penrod, and makes the most out of Apple Tree's very small stage.
Pioneer Press review by Robert Loerzel
Let's just say that Charles Busch's play, running now in a highly entertaining production at Apple Tree Theatre, definitely belongs to the "stranger comes to visit" category of stories, in which an outside force arrives to shake up someone's life.
This play, a hit in New York, is in great hands in Highland Park, with two of the Chicago area's best actresses playing the key roles.
Paula Scrofano perfectly embodies Marjorie's neuroses, mood swings and intellectual striving, while Hollis Resnik is coyly seductive and appropriately mysterious as Lee.
The rest of the cast is strong, too: Scrofano's real-life husband, John Reeger, playing Marjorie's do-gooder spouse; Renee Matthews as her exasperating and exasperated mother; and Vishal Patel as the bemused doorman who occasionally pops into the action.
The cast, directed by Kurt Johns, achieves a natural yet hilarious sense of humor. Near the end of the first act on opening night, the audience's laughter at each funny moment began to spill over into anticipatory giggles of the jokes still to come.
In the end, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" manages to say some meaningful things about the way we find direction in our lives, but the show is also a very diverting couple of hours.
Chicagocritic.com review by Tom
Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park once more
offers a cute choice, Charles Busch's wacky boulevard comedy The
Tale of the Allergist's Wife. This terrific comedy is
part NYC shtick with hints of Woody Allen and Neil Simon and
part fable that delivers its smart humor through a host of
eccentric characters. I liked this show and so will you.
The show boasts four of Chicago 's leading performers: Paula
Scrofano, John Reeger, Renee Matthews and Hollis Resnik with
fine supporting work from Vishal Patel. Director Kurt
Johns brilliantly staged the comedy utilizing Richard and Jacqueline
Penrod's exquisite Upper West Side apartment set to reach to
all three sides of Apple Tree's intimate stage. We
see four comedy pros deliver the shows fertile humor with perfectly
timed jokes, punch lines and rejoinders.
The Tale of the Allergist's Wife is a well written social satire that pokes fun at many pop cultural motifs and beliefs. The outstanding performances from all four actors makes this show a treat. You'll laugh and appreciate the depth of Chicago talent led my Paula Scrofano who once more demonstrates why she is Chicago's most talented leading lady. Recommended
Daily Herald Reivew by Barbara Vitello
Scrofano. Reeger. Resnik. Matthews. Patel.
Five strong actors. Five excellent reasons to check out Apple
Tree Theatre’s production of “The Tale of the Allergist’s
Wife,” Charles Busch’s satire on Upper West Side
denizens suffering from upper-middle-class ennui.
But this cast, smartly directed by Kurt Johns, make these caricatures interesting. “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” ~ 3 out of four stars
Chicago Reader Review by Jack Helbig
In this turn-of-the-millennium comedy, playwright Charles Busch pretends to be on the side of unconventionality and sexual liberation, symbolized by an uninhibited friend who appears out of nowhere to shake up the neurotic, unhappy middle-aged protagonist, Marjorie. Then he spends most of the second act touting the safe upper-middle-class values he skewered in the first. No wonder the play ran for nearly two years on Broadway. Still, Busch gets in some good laughs, many of them based on Marjorie's horrible relationship with her aging mother. This production benefits from strong direction by Kurt Johns and flawless performances by the ensemble.