A TOMATO CAN’T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse is a timeless story about changing family dynamics

ByDavid M. Conte

Apr 5, 2022

The original play by Gary Morgenstein A tomato can’t grow in the Bronx makes its world premiere this month at the Center Playhouse in Freehold. The play is produced by Bob Szita and directed by Bernice Garfield-Szita, artistic director of the theatre. Center Players are excited to finally present live broadcasts again after being closed due to the pandemic.

A tomato can’t grow in the Bronx is set in June 1968 and tells the story of a working class Jewish family living in the Bronx. Construction worker Sammy Abrams realizes the Bronx is a dangerous 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, as they live in the apartment next door. She fears leaving is too risky. The Abrams and Simms households must decide if they want to live their “American dream” or continue with the less than comfortable lifestyle they already have. While visiting a model home on Long Island, the family’s disagreements come to a head. With the help of real estate agent Madeline Kramer, the loved ones reveal secrets and unleash lifelong grudges that change their dynamic forever.

BWW 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 that display the tensions of a real family. Lou Mastro plays the fun and not-so-macho Sammy Abrams. Tracy Howard is the daughter, wife and mother of Eleanor Abrams. Justin Marinelli stars as Sammy and Eleanor’s hilarious and smart teenage son, Elliot Abrams. Jackie Kusher and Andrea Bell Wolff star as Eleanor’s nosy Jewish parents, Harry and Gladys Simms. Gianna Sophie Minardi rounds out the cast as free-spirited realtor Madeline Kramer. The actors appropriate these roles and maintain a perfect balance between 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 neighboring Abrams and Simms family apartments. The scene changes to the layout of a model home in Huntington, Long Island for Act II. Center Playhouse has partnered with local businesses for additional prop donations. Each element had its own meaning on stage during the show. Mark Lamhut’s lighting and sound design made the audience feel like they were part of the play in a small 49-seat theatre.

BWW review: A TOMATO CAN'T GROW IN THE BRONX at Center Playhouse is a timeless story about changing family dynamics

The Center Playhouse production of A tomato can’t grow in the Bronx is about how family members have to compromise to make their loved ones happy. Morgenstein’s idea of ​​writing about a multigenerational family shows how each generation handles change differently. Audiences could relate to what the characters were going through during this time, whether they had gone through it or not. Those who see the piece will notice that similar issues from the 1960s era still occur today.

A tomato can’t grow in the Bronx continues the performances on April 8 at 8 p.m., April 9 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and April 10 at 2 p.m. All performances are SOLD OUT, but the next Center Playhouse play is crimes of the heart, which May 6-22. Tickets can be purchased by calling 732-462-9093 or visiting the Center Playhouse website at https://centerplayers.org/tickets/ The theater is located at 35 South Street in Freehold, NJ. For more information about Center Playhouse, you can go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/centerplayersnj/

Photo credit: Mark Lamhut