Posts Tagged ‘coach

15
Mar
12

a bad year for tomatoes

A Bad Year for Tomatoes

A Comedy by John Patrick

Lind Lane Theatre

14.02.12 – 24.03.12

After being in show business all her life, Myra Marlowe (Leona Kirby) is tired of pretending to be somebody else. She throws in the Hollywood Hilton towel and moves to more modest lodgings in the mountains. Only her agent knows where she is. She takes up gardening and begins writing her autobiography. She doesn’t get very far when the small-minded, small town folk interrupt her work and her new, quiet life with their petty gossip and trussed up dramas. Her seemingly brilliant plan to rid the place of pests and turkeys fails miserably. Her tricks and her true identity are revealed in the end.

Patrick wrote a farce (he also wrote wonderful screenplays, for which he is better known, including High Society and Three Coins in a Fountain). A farce is generally recognised as a humorous play in which the plot depends upon the skillful exploitation of a situation rather than upon any development of character. Well, despite the caricatures working in the first instance, there was little to no evidence of character development here so on that point, Lind Lane can enjoy some small measure of success. However, there is also, sadly, little to no skill demonstrated in terms of plot execution and the management of basic staging, pace and comic timing. A couple of the actors even appear uneasy on stage. This could be preview night nerves but, frankly, I’m getting sick of making excuses for some local performers (and directors). Sometimes, a more humble approach to the craft will do wonders. If you’re in it just for fun and you have no interest in becoming a more accomplished performer, make sure the rest of your cast know that before tech week, when it’s not too late to replace you, and skip this next paragraph…

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It’s time some of you started asking questions of the people whose opinions you value (as opposed to those friends who tell you, “You were AWESOME!”). That might count me out. Whatever. If some of you ever realise that I (and other coaches, teachers and directors on the coast) know a little of what I’m (we’re) talking about, give me (or somebody else) a call and we can do some work together before you look, again, like a nervous, under-rehearsed, under-prepared beginner amateur. Seriously. Think about it. The same applies in retail, hospitality, education and business and you will have noticed that, especially in business, more and more speakers, salespeople, managers – people who want to be taken seriously by their audience – are engaging the services of acting coaches. Very smart. What the good coaches will do is stop you “acting” because we can see your efforts from the back row of the theatre and, damn, it’s painful! Sitting in the audience, we don’t want to see you struggling. We want to see you enjoying what you’re doing! Particularly in a comedy, it makes perfect sense! Think again and we’ll use a sporting analogy. If you want to play tennis with a few friends, you go hire a court and hit a ball around. If you want to be a good tennis player, the best, most confident tennis player you can be, ready for all sorts of play and ready to start enjoying the game on a whole new level, you hire a coach. By all means, if it’s what you want, you keep hitting that ball around with a few friends who are also after some fun times. But don’t expect me to tell you, “You were AWESOME!” at the end of the match. Okay? Okay.

END RANT

So what happens when a farce isn’t funny? A good half of the preview audience and Director, Margaret McDonald, probably can’t answer that. The play was well received by its first audience and, apparently, there was “lots of laughter” during final rehearsals. So despite my misgivings, and counting on Lind Lane’s usual patronage, I think this cast can pretty safely assume they have a sell-out season on their hands.

During the opening ten minutes of A Bad Year for Tomatoes, I thought that perhaps if I could bear to sit through Leona Kirby saving it the way she started out doing, the production wouldn’t be so bad. She has her moments, as does Lea-anne Grevett (one scene particularly, a highlight for me, although completely OTT, is well executed, as Grevett tip-toes back and forth between the bottom of the stairs and the telephone, giving us – at last – a glimpse of some lovely natural comic ability) and Errol Morrison, who plays to the hilt, the dumb(er) wood-chopping, trespassing, over-friendly freak. At the thirty-minute mark, when the cringe-worthy neighbour, Cora (Deb Mills) returns for a second visit, I was hoping wondering if we were getting close to the end yet.

There is a particular demographic who will love this play to pieces. Clearly, I am well out of it. Older members of the preview audience chortled, snorted and upon leaving the theatre happily noted, “Well that was good, wasn’t it?” I smiled and nodded. Sometimes smiling and nodding is the best I can manage after a show. Sometimes, the less said the better. I’ve said too much already. I’m disappointed. I sincerely hope you won’t be.

If you see a lot of theatre, you can probably not feel too bad about missing A Bad Year for Tomatoes. If you don’t get out much, it could be your cup of tea. The production elements are fine (we can see how hard this company works to get great sets and costumes in front of us). In any case, let me know what you think. I don’t mind being proven wrong and I certainly hope you can tell me that that you enjoyed a faster, funnier performance than that which I had to sit through.