The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife

Rated 4.0 Here’s the skinny on the new B Street show. The setting: a teeny, tiny New York apartment, worth $900,000. The owners: an affluent, middle-aged, empty-nest couple. He’s a recently retired allergist, who devotes himself to charitable works and who’s in demand as a media source. She’s an acutely nervous, frustrated housewife who mentions great European intellectuals constantly and who longs to create an important book (maybe not a popular book, but at least something seriously respectable). Her mother—bossy and Jewish—lives adjacent to the couple. (Personally, I find these characters slightly two-dimensional and occasionally tiresome, but I’m a long-haired West Coaster with a bad attitude.)

Attached corollary: The allergist’s wife mourns the death of her beloved shrink—shrinks being a required component in this sort of comedy.

The mysterious stranger: She presents herself as the long-lost childhood friend of the allergist’s wife, though there is constant doubt regarding her authenticity. She seems to have been everywhere and done everything, and she mentions the rich and famous the way abstract painter Jackson Pollock splattered canvas. She has appetites, all kinds, and a hidden agenda. The play, by Charles Busch, is basically a long tease as to who she really is.

The casting is excellent, with lead actress Amy Resnick literally running circles ’round the stage—marvelous. Actually, they’re all quite good. Director John Lamb sustains a smooth, light-footed pace.

Bottom line: clever, lots of attitude—a pop quiz on pop culture (how many names do you recognize?) yoked to a more routine plot; think Six Degrees of Separation, without the racial angle, meets My Dinner with Andre. Entertaining? Slick? Yeah. Memorable? Nah. But it’s the sort of witty, lightweight audience pleaser the B Street does well.

The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife plays at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesday and Sunday; $14.50-$20.50. B Street Theatre, 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through March 9.