Carol’s Culture Corner review of A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES

A Bad Year for Tomatoes, written by John Patrick, is playing at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. His first few plays did not fair too well on Broadway, but his stage adaptation of Vern J. Sneider’s novel in 1953, The Teahouse of the August Moon, earned him both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony award for Drama.

Myra Marlow (Diana Angelina) is a well-known television star who has become stressed out over the demands of her career. All she wants is some peace and quiet where she can relax while she writes her autobiography. She finds just the spot in a small farmhouse in Beaver Haven, Vermont, where she can even plant tomatoes in her spare time. She arrives at the home accompanied by her long time friend and agent, Tom Lamont (David Datz) who tries to talk her out of this phase and to return with him to her job and to marry him. No such luck there!

The moment Tom leaves and she starts to feel the comfort of being alone, (using her real name, Myrtle Durtle), she is interrupted by Amanda Conlon (Cora Gump) and Reba Harper (Ann Ryerson), the Beaver Haven Welcoming Committee. Actually, they turn out to be the town’s nosey neighbors! As soon as they leave, the town’s handyman, Piney (Jeffrey Winner) shows up at her door dragging his axe and offering her his services. Following this interruption, last, but not least, Willa Mae Wilcox (Leda Siskind) makes her appearance at her door, and Myra realizes she is going to have to find a way to keep the meddlers from intruding on her privacy.

Myra makes up a tale of having a dangerous and unhinged sister who she has to keep locked up in an upstairs bedroom, hoping to scare off her constant intruders. And while this falsehood works somewhat for awhile, lying usually finds its way to more dire circumstances, and Myra finds herself in a whole lot of trouble with the town’s sheriff (William Joseph Hill). Fortunately, Tom Lamont arrives just in time to save Myra and to convince her of her next step.

Though John Patrick wrote a large number of plays, his real success came from writing scripts for radio and for the screen. This comedy, written in 1974, is about characters who are too much over the top in outrageous silliness, perhaps some of which might have been played down somewhat. The play is directed by Larry Eisenberg, Co-Artistic Director of the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, and an established actor in his own right. Set design by Jeff G. Rack is outstanding as always.

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