Review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse Is A Timeless Story About Changing Family Dynamics

Gary Morgenstein's play runs at Center Playhouse through April 10!

By: Apr. 04, 2022
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Review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse Is A Timeless Story About Changing Family Dynamics

Gary Morgenstein's original play A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx is set to play this month at Center Playhouse in Freehold. The play is produced by Bob Szita and directed by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who serves as the theatre's Artistic Director. The Center Players are excited to finally present live shows again after being shut down due to the pandemic.

A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx takes place in June 1968 and tells the story of a Jewish working-class family who live in the Bronx. Construction worker Sammy Abrams realizes that the Bronx is an unsafe place to raise his teenage son Elliot, and wants to move his family to the suburbs. Sammy's wife Eleanor relies on her parents Harry and Gladys Simms for support, since they live in the apartment next door. She is worried that leaving would be too much of a risk. The Abrams and Simms households must decide whether to live out their "American Dream," or continue with the less-than-comfortable lifestyle they already have. While touring a model home on Long Island, the family's disagreements come to a head. With the help of real-estate agent Madeline Kramer, the relatives reveal secrets and unleash lifelong grudges that change their dynamic forever.

Review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse Is A Timeless Story About Changing Family Dynamics

The talented six-person cast of A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx portrays characters who display tensions of a real-life family. Lou Mastro plays the amusing, not-so-macho man Sammy Abrams. Tracy Howard is the overachieving daughter, wife, and mother Eleanor Abrams. Justin Marinelli stars as Sammy and Eleanor's hilarious and smart teenage son, Elliot Abrams. Jackie Kusher and Andrea Bell Wolff take on the roles of Eleanor's nosey Jewish parents, Harry and Gladys Simms. Gianna Sophie Minardi completes the cast as a free-spirited real estate agent, Madeline Kramer. The actors make these roles their own, and maintain a perfect balance of funny and serious emotions throughout the play.

Producer Bob Szita and director Bernice Garfield-Szita created the set design for A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx. Act I features side-by-side kitchens in the Abrams and Simms family's neighboring apartments. The scene changes to the layout of a model home in Huntington, Long Island for Act II. Center Playhouse partnered with local businesses for donations of additional props. Each item had its own significance on stage during the show. The lighting and sound design by Mark Lamhut made audiences feel like they were a part of the play in a small 49-seat theater.

Review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse Is A Timeless Story About Changing Family Dynamics

Center Playhouse's production of A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx is about how family members have to compromise in order to make their loved ones happy. Morgenstein's idea to write about a multigenerational family shows how each generation handles change differently. The audience could relate to what the characters were experiencing during that time period, whether they lived through it or not. Those who see the play will notice that similar issues from the 1960s era still occur today.


A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx continues performances on April 8 at 8pm, April 9 at 2pm & 8pm, and April 10 at 2pm. All performances are SOLD OUT, but Center Playhouse's next play is Crimes Of The Heart, which runs May 6-22. Tickets can be purchased by calling 732-462-9093 or visiting Center Playhouse's website at https://centerplayers.org/tickets/ The theatre is located at 35 South Street in Freehold, NJ. For more information on Center Playhouse, you can go on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/centerplayersnj/

Photo Credit: Mark Lamhut



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