Opening night of A Bad-Year for Tomatoes marked the 200th performance on the Phoenix Stage Company stage. (I really can't figure out why there is a hyphen on the logo, but no matter.) You can read about the celebration here, or in the identical post on the Oxford Patch. This is my review of this light comedy.
The plot involves a famous actress who retreats to New England in order to write her autobiography but finds that nosy neighbors give her little privacy. How she attempts to solve this problem leads to hilarity, but of course, everything works out in the end. This light comedy was written by John Patrick and is a little ridiculous in spots, but the cast at the Phoenix grasp onto the juicy roles and are clearly enjoying themselves.
Helen Adams plays the lead role of the actress "Myra Marlowe." She is the perfect type for the part and her performance here made me realize that this lady can do just about everything well, from drama ("Amanda" in The Glass Menagerie) to classic comedy/drama ("Ouiser" in Steel Magnolias.) Also an accomplished costumer, she recently designed the Warner's productions of Annie and Witness for the Prosecution. Here she is fearless, and shows considerable stamina (and ability to remember lines) as she appears in virtually every scene. As her agent Tom Lamont, Lyle Ressler (How to Succeed in Business) is charming and seemed to get a lot of the best lines.
The actors playing the crazy neighbors are a joy to watch. Patti Paganucci is the nosey "Reba Harper" and Donna Storms is her partner in intrusion as "Cora Gump." Director Ed Bassett spoke on WZBG about how Ms. Paganucci has grown from an ensemble member to more featured roles and has come into her own. Ms. Storm has a rubber face and great comic timing. The interaction between these two is quite funny. John Cummings returns to the Phoenix Stage as the Sheriff with more lines and an official-looking uniform.
As "Willa Mae Wilcox," Tori Richnavsky was completely over the top and simply perfect. She was last seen as "M'Lynn" in Steel Magnolias, but this role is completely different. From her crazy seventies costume that she put together herself, to her fantastical delivery, she almost stole the show. When Daniel R. Willey ("Inspector Hubbard" in Dial M for Murder) entered the stage in his costume, I literally could not place him. He had completely morphed into the role of "Piney." Even though his character is very unusual, to put it mildly, the audience warms up to him in no time.
Mr. Bassett must have had a fun time hand picking this cast and helping them to bring the story to life. The set that he and Lori Poulin dressed is an impressive one; Agnes Dann helped them to capture the seventies vibe in the props. Kudos to the members of the cast for coming up with their own costumes.