A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES
by John Patrick
Director – Neale Whitmore
Set Designer – Neale Whitmore
Sound Designer – Neale Whitmore
Stage Manager – Katie Dedman
Costumes Mistress – Carol Payne
Lighting Designer – Alex Ammons
Master Carpenter – Norm Burgess
Props Master – Elise Knox
Myra Marlowe – Angie McKnight
Tom Lamont – Mike Spitters
Cora Gump – Sue Wagner
Reba Harper – Paula Coco
Piney – Paul Niles
Willa Mae Wilcox – Nancy Lamb
Sister Sadie – Angie McKnight
Sheriff – Clay Jones
Reviewed Performance: 2/26/2016
Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Is it really a bad year for tomatoes? Well in Frisco, TX it is. The Frisco Community Theatre has brought the seventies back with their production of A Bad Year for Tomatoes written by John Patrick. The show follows Myra Marlowe as she begins to write her memoires after a fruitful career as a successful television actress. Myra travels to a small town in New England to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. She wants to go to a quiet place to concentrate on her writing. While there, she is constantly bombarded with the locals interrupting her attempts to write her book. She devises a plan to help her put the locals at bay and give her the chance to finish her book. Does it work; well you’ll have to go see it to find out. Neale Whitmore takes on directing this project for FCT. Not only does he direct it but he designed the set and sound track for the show. I usually don’t enjoy shows where one person does too much in the production. The fact is that something almost always gets lost when you’re doing too much. Mr. Whitmore proves me wrong with this way of thinking. The show is good all the way around. Farces are usually pretty hard due to the comedic timing being the key to pushing the story along. His direction kept the scenes flowing well and kept the audience attentive through every scene. His set design was good for what they needed. The upstage wall spanned the entire theatre and had two door entrances and an opening to a hallway with stairs on the off stage side which allowed for several different entrance and exit opportunities. I loved the painting of the set. There was a yellow base on the walls which was broken up by orange brush marks which made the walls almost glow. There was a chair rail which separated the orange and yellow top from a wood grain bottom. I think the only bad note I took on the set was that there were 2x4’s framing the doors and they left the frame on the bottom which basically left a 2x4 right in the walkway of every door. In act 2 one of the actors actually tripped on the frame as they were making their entrance kind of reiterating my concerns about safety.
Now the set had a lot of help from the set dressing done by Elise Knox whom also did the props for the show. Every prop and set dressing truly looked like it was from 1974. Like I said the set was good but the addition of shelves with trinkets really helped to make the 2d set turn into a 3d piece of art.
Alex Ammons took on the project of lighting this show. Since all the scenes took place inside the living room of the rental cottage, there was no need for overly creative lighting. Mr. Ammons does a great job of making sure all of the actors were well lit and all the action onstage could be seen. The light plot consisted of white light mixed in with some amber front which made for a very warm color on the stage. Mr. Ammons used some LED’s as down light to help tone down the warmth on the stage which helped to really even out the lighting on the stage.
The costumes were wonderful and truly screamed 70’s. Deborah Jaskolka works wonders with this production. From the green suit on Tom Lamont to the fluorescent colored pants on Reba Harper, she truly pulls us into the 70’s with these costumes. Willa Mae Wilcox was truly the prize though as far as costumes go. Multi colored striped socks and a pair of glasses with clear cups glued onto them really made Nancy Lambs character look as coo key as she was.
The acting in the show was strong for the most part. There were a few too many “umms” that happened through the show. I really put that to the fact that the show I saw was the first show they did after a week off. Angie McKnight takes on the role of Myra Marlowe and Sister Sadie. This is a huge role due to the fact that she is onstage almost the entire two hours of the show. She will wow you through it all. I loved her transformation between Sadie and Myra the couple of times you get to see both. While costumes help in differentiated between the two characters she really doesn’t need them to do it. She changes her stance, speed, and face to pull of the different characters in expert fashion.
Nancy Lamb treads the boards once more in the DFW area. This time she brings Willa Mae Wilcox to life and doesn’t disappoint. Her delivery is so comedic you laugh from the time she enters until she leaves. Willa Mae is an eccentric, conspiracy theorist, elderly lady and Ms. Lamb plays it to the hilt. No matter what scene she’s in she comes on with a burst of energy that becomes addictive to the other actors that are onstage with her at the time. She connects well with the other characters around her but as well connects with the audience through the entire show.
Tom Lamont is Myra’s agent and was portrayed by Mike Spitters. During the show he really only interacts with Myra and plays off of her beautifully. You truly get the feeling that they have known each other for a long time. I do believe he comes to his best performance when he gets to interact with the entire cast at the end. His comedic delivery bounces off the cast with ease and was really a lot of fun to watch.
Paul Niles comes in as the off the wall outdoorsman Piney, who you may remember from Mary Poppin’s at the Firehouse. I had to watch Mr. Niles for a while to figure his character delivery out. At first I thought that he may be a little green for the part. He was a little stiff in his delivery in the beginning but as the show went on I noticed that it was more of an acting choice to play the character that way. Piney really steals the show as he tries to court Sister Sadie. Sometimes you just can’t take the redneck out of the outdoorsman. One hell of a job of making me laugh for about five minute while he tries to crack nuts with everything from the rocker in the living room to his axe. I will never look at nuts the same again.
Cora Gump was portrayed by Sue Wagner and Reba Harper was portrayed by Paula Coco. I have to put these two ladies together since they were rarely apart. These two were the best religious nuts I’ve seen in a long time. I tend to talk about facial expressions a lot when the theatre is as small as the black box and these two take the cake. The audience ate it up every time they would start talking the Jesus. When one was talking the other was going to town with hand gestures eye rolling to go along with what the other was saying. I do have to give Ms. Wagner a little extra credit for her drinking scene though. Acting is hard enough but to drink almost the entire 750ML of Jack Daniels in the first act has to make it even harder.
Finally we come to the Sheriff in town. We saw him for about five minutes so it’s hard to give a true assessment but from what we saw he was dead solid in his performance. Really out of all the characters he was the only one that didn’t stutter on lines or fail in blocking so I have to give him an A+ for that. I have to admit I’m a stickler for comedies. I’m always a tough critic on timing and all around production values. This production does a wonderful job in both areas and I’m extremely happy I got to see it. This show was selling out quickly, even the night I went was sold out, so if you have the need for a laugh get your tickets now and go to Frisco to have a couple hours of fun.
A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES
BLACK BOX THEATER, FRISCO DISCOVERY CENTER
8004 NORTH DALLAS PARKWAY, SUITE 200, FRISCO, TX 75034
Through March 6, 2016 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM Sundays at 2:30 PM with an extra matinee on Saturday, 3/5, at 2:30. Tickets are as follows Adults $20, Seniors 60+ and Veterans $18, Students and Active Duty Military $12.There is a $1.50 per ticket charge if paying with credit card. For tickets or more info go to http://www.friscocommunitytheatre.com