Tomato Beard contains all of the following: broken hearts, puppets, curses, an alcoholic turtle (who’s also a ship’s captain), a neurotic and sexually confused pig (who’s also a mayor), a lion made out of leaves, and a catchy soundtrack with lyrics that reference T.S. Eliot poetry when they’re not pining over unrequited love.
With all of that, Tomato Beard should either be the greatest show of all time or an utter mess. And somehow, I think it manages to be both. Know this above all else about Tomato Beard: it’s goofy. It’s chaotic, sometimes unintentionally so. But in spite of (or because of) all of its lack of refinement, Tomato Beard is just flat out fun.
There is a youthful energy to this musical tale about a cursed tomato farmer and the ridiculous town he lives in. For many of the show’s performers, this is the first foray into performing on stage, and with that comes a certain excitement for the sheer art of acting for an audience. And while, yes, perhaps lack of experience is at fault for some flat deliveries or awkward pacing or dropped lines here or there, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day because of how brilliantly dumb the play is. It is gleeful in its insanity, and as an audience member it’s hard not to find yourself laughing along.
Written and directed by D.K Hedquist and K. McDermott
Music: K. McDermott
Details and tickets
Now, not all flaws are created equal, and while the inexperience of the performers joyfully transcends itself, some other aspects of the show are harder to laugh off. The biggest culprit is a general lack of direction, particularly during musical numbers. The songs of Tomato Beard are an easy highlight, so it’s a shame that most of them overstay their welcome. Even though they are all fairly short, it’s hard to care for more than a minute or two about them when the only blocking involved in their performance is “pace back and forth.”
The same goes for some of the scenes in the play, which lack a refined eye for stage pictures. The blocking often looks muddled and nothing seems to know where to go. The dialogue meanders, and some scenes are so aimless that I couldn’t tell the difference between two or three that took place in the same setting. But, hey, when the topic is rotten tomatoes growing out of a man’s beard, maybe everything just starts to sound the same after a while.
These are largely issues with pacing, which perhaps are most apparent because of the general frenzy of the show. Tomato Beard is at its most fun when its wheels are falling off and its careening off of a cliff, so when it grinds to a halt in slow scenes it is that much more apparent. But for all of its lows it has plenty of highs, as long as you count a nasally pig yelling/singing to himself about his conflicted heart a high (and you should).
For all of its flaws and all of its mess, Tomato Beard is a riotous romp that is sure to put a smile on your face. If you’re looking for the most polished, well-executed show, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a few laughs and some dumb fun, then Tomato Beard might scratch your itch. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you can appreciate the art of having fun, then grab some friends and bear witness to this outrageous odyssey.