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2015 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Tomato Beard’

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Raunchy, irreverent, and just plain silly, Tomato Beard is a series of skits much like those early Saturday Night Live spoofs.

This Pennydog production, billed as a “rock musical,” is a work in progress – three-quarters of the cast have never performed on a stage, according to a post-show announcement. Still it seems safe to say that a good time was had by so many people (including the cast last night at the Atlas Performing Arts Center) that this celebration of foolishness should do fine at the Festival.

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The tale, as noted in the program, involves a farmer named Tom Beard (Alex Swope) and the curse put upon him. His beard is full of rotting tomatoes and his crops are failing. As the lights come on, Tom saunters onto the stage and begins to sing, “Cursed Life,” as he pulls off a couple of the red puffy balls attached to his fake wooly, grey beard. Meanwhile the local catsup factory is falling behind in supplies, the tomatoes, of course. This dilemma takes Tom on a mission, sort of, with a visit to Mayor Percy P. Pigquist (Jeremy P. Green), a talented puppeteer who steals the show with his angst-ridden rendition of “Constant Disappointment.”

Meanwhile, Tom’s daughter Miranda (Akosua Johnson) takes off on a sea voyage with Captain Turtle (Elle Lunden) and another puppet master who helps keep the story moving along.  As it turns out, the puppets are the main focus in this story. Donald the Porcupine (John Marth) is adorable, especially in the scene where Pigquist is dying and we (the audience) must shake our wooden tomatoes (hidden under our seats) to bring him back to life. Much like Tinkerbelle’s magical recovery, Pigquist lives, and marries Porcupine.

Much of the joy of Tomato Beard lies in its imaginative use of its low budget. A picket fence turns the stage into a farm; a bunch of autumn leaves becomes a mask; Josh Hunter’s back lighting (red for tomatoes) is cool. The back stage works well for the three musicians/actors for the three musicians/actors Eileen O’Grady on drums, Andrew Breiner on bass, and Katie McDermott who plays both the keyboard and a key role in the play.

While it may have been Tom’s tale, this writer was particularly fascinated with playwright Danielle Hedquist who narrates the tale in-between twitching her long green fingernails and making grand entrances as the character Aloe Vera.

Running Time: 65 minutes.

Tomato Beard plays through July 24, 2015, at the Springer Auditorium in the Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC 20002. For schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe page.

RATING: THREE-AND-A-HALF-STARS1.gif

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