Olive and the Bitter Herbs

August 13, 2011

Charles Busch’s latest play.  Busch is a prolific playwright, cranking them out as frequently as once a year.  He had The Divine Sister, his 2010 play, produced at SoHo Playhouse.

This play was occasionally hilarious, always watchable and certainly worth the price of admission if only for the wonderful acting.  The best known among general audiences is Richard Masur who has done lots of film, TV and Broadway, where he first appeared thirty-eight years ago!

The star turn in this comedy is clearly by Julie Halston as Wendy who appeared in Charles Busch’s aforementioned The Divine Sister last year. 

Olive is a cranky middle-aged New York Jew who has problems with the gay couple who are her neighbors.  They, likewise, have trouble with her.  Wendy tries to resolve their conflict but, well, you don’t have to be told how that works out.  Twice (or was it three times) widowed Masur has an easy way about him and takes a shine to Olive.  We get the idea that he fishes in shallow waters and is satisfied with whatever he catches.

So Olive is the catch, such as she is.  If there is a lid for every pot, this is a crushed lid for a dented pot.  They fit, but just kinda sorta.  The play is very lively, the writing is good, the acting great, the set and lighting just fine.

And the price is right.  This is off-Broadway, a good theatre and a great theatre company which deserves support.  But don’t go just to show support.  Go for a funny play which passes quickly without noticeable dry spots.   Especially if you are Jewish so you get all the Passover references.