Encore opens season with ‘Bad Year for Tomatoes’


Actors (l-r) Barret Kidd, Michael Williams, Gene Tick, Riescha Bass, Cindy Nicolaisen and Christina Shepard rehearse the play "A Bad Year for Tomatoes," at the Encore Theatre Co. building, Monday, Sept. 9. The play opens at Arts of the Albemarle's Maguire Theater on Friday at 7:30 p.m.


By Anna Goodwin McCarthy

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Searching for a place to write her memoirs, renowned actress Myra Marlowe thinks she has found what she has been looking for in the quiet New England town of Beaver Haven. However, she soon notices that peace and quiet are lacking in her new abode.

That’s the plot of Encore Theatre Company’s latest production, “A Bad Year for Tomatoes,” which opens at Arts of the Albemarle’s Maguire Theatre on Friday.

“It’s about a woman who’s had it with her life as an actress,” said Amanda Brannon, the play’s director. “She wants to find a remote place where nobody knows her.”

In playwright John Patrick’s script, Myra’s struggle to create a normal life for herself in Beaver Haven is reflected by her humorous efforts to grow tomatoes.

“She is bound and determined to grow tomatoes,” said Brannon. “She never really grows anything.”

This ongoing metaphor for her life plays out as Myra, portrayed by Riescha Bass, finds it difficult to write her autobiography as a group of neighbors and townspeople constantly interrupt her flow.

To buy herself more time to write, Myra decides to disguise herself, donning a wig, glasses, buck teeth and a muumuu dress. She transforms herself into “Sadie,” a wacky character she claims is her sister, who she hopes will frighten away the people who knock at her door.

The Sadie character is quite a change from Myra, who is a wealthy and famous actress.

“It’s really funny to see her in Sadie’s outfits,” said Brannon. “It’s really hilarious.”

Myra’s plan backfires when Sadie, instead of scaring the townsfolk of Beaver Haven away, actually starts attracting their curiosity as well as the heart of a potential beau, Piney, played by Michael Williams.

Brannon said Piney “smells like a skunk and looks menacing, but is a big teddy bear.”

“Our reading committee wanted to bring something to lighten the mood,” said Brannon on Encore’s decision to perform Patrick’s play.

Set in the 1970s, the costumes reflect the time period. The majority of the play takes place in Myra’s living room.

Brannon said teasers for “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” can be viewed on the Encore Theatre Company’s Facebook page. Each video segment features a character from the play and their backstory. Brannon said the actors wrote their own lines for the teasers which reflect “what would happen in a normal day in their lives.”

In addition to Bass and Williams, the cast for “A Bad Year For Tomatoes” includes Barret Kidd, Christina Shepard, Cynthia Nicolaisen, Sheri White and Gene Tick.

“I feel like each actor fit the role,” said Brannon.

While there is mention of growing tomatoes throughout the play, Myra never seems to succeed at it. Audiences will have to see if this “bad year for tomatoes” ends up being a good year for Myra.

Performances of “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” will be at Arts of the Albemarle’s Maguire Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22. Performances next week are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 26-28.

Tickets before the day of the show are $18 for general admission and $16 for seniors 65 and older and children 12 and younger. Day of show tickets are $19 for general admission and $17 for seniors 65 and older and children 12 and younger. Tickets may be purchased at AoA or at boxoffice.diamondticketing.com/aoa/seats.