NY1 Theater Review: "Olive And The Bitter Herbs"
New York theater funny man Charles Busch is back on the off-Broadway scene with his latest work, "Olive and the Bitter Herbs." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
When Charles Busch writes, people laugh. That’s a given. And yet not all Busch comedies are alike nor are they of equal merit. His latest features the playwright’s trademark zingers delivered with gusto by a primo cast. But while he has a genuine gift for capturing urban New York humor much like he did in "Tale of the Allergist’s Wife", his biggest success, "Olive and The Bitter Herbs", dramatically speaking, is kinda hard to swallow.
Olive is an aging, embittered actress with all the tenderness of a rabid dog. Needless to say she's not exactly social and yet in a series of rather contrived developments, she manages to make friends: A big-hearted colleague, a pair of gay neighbors and a lonely widower -- all of whom gather repeatedly in her apartment for various occasions. They're together, for example, to watch Olive's guest appearance on a TV show and for a Passover Seder. Each visit ends badly thanks to Olive's sour temper but they keep coming back along with a ghost who turns out to have a connection to almost all the characters in the play. The coincidences mount to the breaking point of incredulity. But honestly, it's so entertaining, the convoluted plot turns barely matter.
And blessed with an excellent company, Busch's wit hits the mark, even managing to dig a bit beneath the surface. Marcia Jean Kurtz is one hilariously prickly Olive. Dan Butler and David Garrison inject enough nuance into their stereotyped roles to make us care beyond the laughs. Richard Masur is brilliantly restrained. And it takes a while to rev her up but no one does manic hysteria better than Busch muse Julie Halston.
Director Mark Brokaw does a fine job accentuating the play's strengths. And so bottomline, while it's not Busch's best, a strong production makes "Olive and the Bitter Herbs" a delicious little comedy despite its apparent flaws.