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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Theater

World premiere hits the stage


“Tomato/Tomáto” is the original script of senior playwright Richard Sabatucci. The play had its premiere this weekend in the Quintero Lab Theatre under the guidance of BFA Acting junior Josh Hoppe, along with the support of UH students, faculty and staff. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

“Tomato/Tomáto” is the original script of senior playwright Richard Sabatucci. The play had its premiere this weekend in the Quintero Lab Theatre under the guidance of BFA Acting junior Josh Hoppe, along with the support of UH students, faculty and staff. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

Vagabond Theatre Project presented “Tomato/ Tomáto” on Friday and Saturday, an original script written by playwriting senior Richard Sabatucci under the direction of Josh Hoppe.

Vagabond’s production of “Tomato/Tomáto” captures one night in two slowly disintegrating relationships and handles the adult themes of marriage, infidelity and love in a realistic way.

By using the same actors, dialogue and set pieces for both acts, the focus is kept on the characters’ interactions.

Like scenes through a mirror, with a quick switch of set pieces and character names, the second half of “Tomato/ Tomáto” presents a different version of a similar relationship.

Act I introduces Kelley (Sarah Heddins) and Alex (Andrew Garrett), a middle class couple who have been married for 10 years, but are on the brink of big changes in their relationship. This version presents the illusion of the perfect marriage — Kelley is a darling wife and Alex is the responsible working husband.

But the illusion is quickly shattered as their night is interrupted by Elvis, an unenthusiastic magazine salesman (David Clayborn) who gives Kelley another reason to tease her conservative husband and Meryl, (Christly Guedry) a lusty intern with whom Alex is considering having an affair.

It’s never wise to attempt an extramarital relationship while your wife sleeps upstairs, but the poor guy just can’t help himself. Of course, Kelley walks in just as things are about to progress between Meryl and Alex and seeing this forces her to finally decide whether her marriage is worth continuing or not.

Act II presents an alternate version of a similar marriage in crisis. Heddins’ character is now Alex, an upper-class, resentful and antagonistic wife, whereas Kelley, now played by Garrett, is the loving and unassuming husband. But on this side of the looking glass, Alex and Kelley are on the verge of divorce.

Although they perform the same dialogue from the previous act, the new stage direction, lighting and flipped set pieces allowed the actors to give reinvigorated performances that could have otherwise become repetitive.

Their night is still interrupted, but this time by Andy, a scene stealing and eager magazine salesman portrayed by Clayborn. Guedry’s character is now Lynn, a nerdy and unsure intern — the complete opposite of the sex goddess she was in the first act. Lynn’s attempted seduction of Kelley is more subtle and unwarranted, but her role is critical in both acts. Meryl and Lynn are the catalyst for both couples, forcing each to take a closer look at where their marriage is headed.

In one night these couples must decide the future of their relationship, while realizing they want different things from each other.

The situation Kelley/Alex and Alex/Kelley find themselves in could happen to anyone, but the seemingly naturalness of the dialogue and easiness of Heddins’ and Garret’s performances allowed for a genuine interpretation.

“Tomato/Tomáto” displayed to perfection that some situations can be different yet still the same.

The fluidity of the banter between Sarah Heddins’ Kelley/Alex and Andrew Garret’s Alex/Kelley showcases Sabatucci’s skill as a playwright and Hoppe’s creative freedom as director.

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