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'Allergist's Wife' nothing to sneeze at

Marjorie's life is such a waste that she takes it out on cartoon figurines in the Disney Store. Her midlife-crisis outburst might have landed her in jail except that her husband, a semiretired allergist, wrote a check covering the breakage.

But Marjorie is her own jailer. As we meet her in "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," set in an Upper West Side apartment, she hasn't gone out in weeks. Mulford Repertory Theater's 1721 barn -- yes, theater in a barn -- will never pass for a condo, no matter how extensive the makeover. Set designer Brian Leaver uses David Geiser's painting "Ra" to hint at sophistication amid chirping crickets.

Kate Mueth as the director and title character suffers Marjorie's anxieties convincingly. Scenes with husband Ira, played by Josh Gladstone, ring with familiar domesticity. (The two are married for real.) Gladstone's handling of his stage wife's delicate psyche comes across amusingly as ineffectual bedside manners. Less helpful is Marjorie's mom (Lydia Franco-Hodges in a bad wig), whose complaints are bathroom focused. She craves suppositories.

Marjorie mopes over her self-perceived intellectual mediocrity. Art, theater and philosophy -- she's drawn particularly to German writers and Eastern mystics -- are all over her head. She knows just enough "Siddhartha" to know she doesn't get it.

Playwright Charles Busch -- best known for over-the-top parodies starring himself in drag -- doesn't let us wallow in Marjorie's funk. Enter Lee, a childhood friend who's led the life Marjorie aspires to: She slept with Günter Grass and fed Andy Warhol Campbell's soup. Played with ingratiating seductivity by Licia James Zegar, Lee is the distaff "Man Who Came to Dinner" and never left. She jolts Marjorie out of her darkness. But at what cost? Only the doorman knows. He's appropriately starchy in his uniform as played by Joseph De Sane (costumes by Yuka Silvera).

While "Allergist's Wife" is mainstream, it reflects Busch's sense of the outrageous. A three-way seduction, while more suggestive than explicit, is not kids' stuff. Some will find humor in graphic scatological descriptions, invariably delivered over food; others will be repulsed.

Despite poor sightlines, the barn may be a romantic setting for some of Mulford's repertoire. But when Lee remarks that the city has changed since she was last in Manhattan, it's an unintentional laugh line.

WHAT Charles Busch's "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife"

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24, 26, 28, 30 and Sept. 1 and 3, Mulford Farm, 10 James Lane, East Hampton

INFO $15-$25; theatermania.com, 866-811-4111

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