The Tale of the Allergist's Wife mixes laugh-out-loud comedy, philosophical dialogue, and a modern-day midlife crisis. Marjorie (Charlotte Sherman) is having a breakdown following the death of her therapist. She's given up her desperate search for fulfillment through writers like Kafka, Hesse, Sexton, and Plath, and spends her days pouting in her blue robe. A crisis in confidence has left her feeling the "cultural poser" who, as a Jew, belongs in the "Russian shtetl pulling a plow, not visiting art exhibits." Her ego-driven husband, Dr. Ira Taub (Marc Streeter), tenderly tries to rouse her, but it is her mother, Frieda (Arline Bonner), who most gets under her skin. Frieda's profanity adds comic relief as she hobbles about in a housedress with her cane. Enter old friend Lee Green (Mary Lou Culligan), the ultimate multitasking name dropper. Lee, who moves in with Marjorie and Ira, is the Rasputin who stirs Marjorie back to her old self. This world traveler knows how to manipulate, insinuating herself into the lives of this family and opening them up to more than they bargained for. Although the acting skill wavers, the cast maneuvers skillfully around difficult dialogue. Sherman makes her dramatic character stick most of the time, with her over-the-top moments just adding to the fun. Streeter is a master of body language, making Ira all the more lovable with a playful kick, a lusty look, a macho stance. Bonner is hilarious from the get-go with perfect timing, but Culligan and Trey Esparza, the doorman, often "act," having few moments where they settle in. Geared toward an intellectual audience, this adult comedy has laughs for everyone. (Through October 24 at the Delray Beach Playhouse, 950 NW Ninth St., Delray Beach, 561-272-1281.) -- Rachel Galvin
Anna in the Tropics:Nilo Cruz directs his Pulitzer Prize-winning play with theatrical flourishes, but there's a decided lack of character detail and substance. Cruz's tale of adulterous romance among Cuban cigar makers in 1929 Florida features exquisite poetry and a complex Chekhovian narrative of a traditional family business facing the advent of mechanization. The widely anticipated production, Cruz's first crack at directing his own work, offers outstanding production design and a competent ensemble cast. But Cruz as director doesn't exploit the shadings and emotional textures of his own script. The result is flashy and often funny, but ultimately frustrating. (Through October 24 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, 305-442-4000, www.cgplayhouse.com.)
Last Night of Ballyhoo: Alfred Uhry's play mixes Southern and Jewish gentility and bigotry in a slice-of-life presentation. When Eastern European Jew Joe Farkas (Jeff Silver) pays a visit to his boss Adolph's (Rusty Allison) family (the 'right kind of Jews' from Germany), romance and drama ensue. It's December 1939; Atlanta is abuzz about the premiere of Gone with the Wind. Squinty and bespectacled Lala (Elizabeth King) buys a hoop dress that inspires her uncle Adolph to call her "Scarlet O'Goldberg." King is delicious as Lala, balancing her glasses and horse-toothed grin beneath wild black curls decorated with two tiny bows. She slouches, fidgets, and bounces like a preteen in saddle shoes. As weak-willed as a willow, she bends easily under her mother's hard-edged manipulation. Charming, intelligent, and in love, Meryl Bezrutczyk is good as Sunny, the well-balanced sister, and Aaron Lee is clever and funny as Peachy Weil, Lala's "prospective." For characters and controversy alone, this is worth seeing. (Through November 28 at the Stage Door Theater, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, 954-344-7765.)
Amadeus: Peter Shaffer's play about the life and death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a satisfying potboiler and John Felix is splendid as the villainous Antonio Salieri, a hard-working but mediocre composer who seethes in jealousy and despair when Mozart effortlessly proves his musical genius. Director Richard Jay Simon ably stages the monster show -- the production features 15 performers in full 18th-century regalia jammed onto the Mosaic's tiny stage -- and the supporting cast is solid if not exceptional; but the production is hampered by a lumbering pace and some subpar production elements. (Through October 31 at Mosaic Theatre, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation, 954-577-8243, www.MosaicTheatre.com.)
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