Lighthearted Comedy From a Big-Hearted Cast: BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES at Village Playbox

by Arlene Price Kohler

Sandy Albrecht, Marti Palmieri, Suzanne Inman, Steve Allen in a scene from A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES, running in Haddon Heights through May 7.

It well may have been a bad year for tomatoes but it was a great night for comedy in Haddon Heights. Village Playbox is ending its 71st season with the staging of A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES written by John Patrick in 1973. Patrick also wrote the more well known ‘Teahouse of the August Moon’. TOMATOES is a lighthearted farce with a touch of slapstick.

The pivotal character is Myra Marlowe, a television actress fed up with her career, who leases a cottage in the tiny hamlet of Beaver Haven in order to write her autobiography. And so the scene is set and the first laugh is heard. The stage is charmingly dressed and so realistic looking that one can, not only almost imagine themselves sitting at the table for breakfast but can visualize the rooms thru those doorways. Very inviting. Thanks to Marcus Roorda as he is the set designer as well as director. I have equal praise for the gentleman under both those hats. Kellie Cooper is responsible for the costumes and I must commend her. It is very rare for me to attend a show where I cannot find fault in some aspect of the costuming. Each actor is believably and appropriately dressed for their roles. They do not clash with each other nor with the set.

The entire show has a wonderful touch of realism. The characters are comedic stereotypes, but the dialogue is well written and delivered in such a human manner and with just enough loopiness to make those stereotypes fly.

Suzanne Inman, Elaine Bellin in a scene from Village Playbox's A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES.

Elaine Bellin plays Myra Marlowe. This role requires an actress who can carry the entire show on her shoulders and Elaine does just that. She is wonderfully cast…so believable in this role. Her performance is stylized, yet not phony. She does not play the role as a self absorbed diva, but rather a working woman weary of her job and it’s politics seeking a little peace and quiet. She is charming, a tad sarcastic and uniquely zany.

Unfortunately she doesn’t get the peace and quiet she seeks, as each time she sits down to dictate her memoirs on a little tape recorder, someone shows up at her door or in her living room.

First, we have the the two nosy neighbors Cora Gump and Reba Harper played by Sandy Albrecht and Marti Palmieri. The roles are small but these two ladies make the most of their time onstage, they both turn in fine performances.

Suzanne Inman is a real stand out as Willa Mae Wilcox. Her great comedic timing makes the most of her role as a kind of new age hippie witch.

Steve Allen is particularly effective as Piney; the banter between he and Myra is very well done.

Joe Cooper and James Eckstein round out the cast as Myra’s agent Tom Lamont and the Sheriff. Small roles but not small performances.

There’s lots more going on…the plot thickens as Myra conceives a plan to keep her neighbors at bay and …well you just better show up this weekend to see what develops. You will not be disappointed.

by John Patrick
Directed by Marcus Roorda
April 29 – May 7, 2011
The Village Playbox
First Presbyterian Church
7th and Green Streets
Haddon Heights, NJ  

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