Multi-award-winning Boston director Larry Coen is usually a comedic master, whether he’s acting or directing, so it’s surprising this fine cast resorts to hyperbole. Portraying lead role Marjorie Taub, a bored, Jewish doctor’s wife and empty nest mother, Marina Re’ in opening scenes throws herself across sofas, lies prone, agonizing about her lack of talent and intellect. Wallowing in self-pity, she spends her days volunteering, moping, moaning and groaning in her lavish Upper West Side apartment. And she weeps and wails inconsolably over the death of her therapist - a month ago.
She complains about the new chandelier she bought. She’s an inveterate volunteer and museum-goer, but she’s had enough. Besides, her acerbic mother Frieda always loved her brother Bobby best (he died at age 22 of a defective heart valve). Out of frustration, Marjorie smashed expensive statuettes at the Disney store, but claims it was an accident.
Re’s over-reaction make us want to stuff a sock in her mouth or slap her upside the head.
Joel Colodner as Marjorie’s loving husband, Ira, is deliberately cloying in his concern for her, unmasking his insincerity, pomposity, and overblown ego. Although Ira retired to spend more time with Marjorie, he claims he’s too much in demand. He must lecture, teach, and help homeless patients and those who “need” him. He’s apologetic to Marjorie, but duty calls, and he can’t abandon that call, he says.
When he’s home, Ira referees between Marjorie and her caustic, constantly constipated mother, Frieda (fantastic Ellen Colton), who lives in her own apartment down the hall. Ellen Colton’s comic timing, rapid tongue lashings, quips, cracks, and gestures are spot-on, reminders of relatives we’d rather forget.
When Marjorie’s malaise is interrupted by a strikingly attractive woman at her door, the trio’s lives take abrupt, sharp turns. Caroline Lawton, portraying Lee, (Marjorie’s former childhood playmate, Lillian Goldblatt, who metamorphosed into a stunning, name-dropping sophisticated world traveler), breezily adds glamor, excitement, and exhilaration to Marjorie’s existence - and the stage.
In fact, Marjorie becomes so transformed under Lee’s influence, Ira is convinced Lee is a figment of Marjorie’s imagination, an invisible manifestation that lifted her from inaction and incited her newfound whirlwind of activity.
When Ira meets Lee, he, too, is awed by her worldliness and unconventional behavior, ticking off shocking episodes, and an abrupt ending.
Zaven Ovian rounds out the cast as the Watts’ patient doorman, Mohammed.
Despite a few opening night flaws, the Lyric Theatre has made an all-out effort to produce a first-rate production, most notably with Matt Whiton’s lavish, elegant set and Mallory Frers’ costumes.
BOX INFO:Two-act comedy by Charles Busch, directed by Larry Coen, appearing through Dec. 20, at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon St., Boston. Performances:Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 3,8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.; Wednesday matinee Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $25. special rates for seniors, students, student rush, and groups. Call the Box Office at 617-585-5678 or visit lyricstage.com.