Nothing Doing

-- Mike Isaacson

By Wesley Middleton
Metro Theater Company

Metro Theater Company celebrated the beginning of its 26th season by presenting an open staging of its newest theater piece for younger audiences, Wesley Middleton's Tomato Plant Girl, in the newly refurbished New City School Founders' Hall auditorium.

The work deals with tough stuff. Its protagonist, Little Girl (Monica Holeczy), finds herself bullied, dissed and extorted by Bossy Best Friend (Carlyn Armintrout). Bossy Best Friend even allows her own tomato plant to die of neglect (saying it's Little Girl's fault), then forces Little Girl through emotional blackmail to give up her healthy tomato plant, which Bossy Best Friend also kills by neglect. But then Bossy Best Friend leaves on a shopping vacation and Little Girl finds a new friend, Tomato Plant Girl (Kate Frank). It takes Little Girl a while to learn that her new friend follows her own rules, not Bossy Best Friend's (filtered through Little Girl). When this happens, however, Little Girl discovers that her own rules are better for her than Bossy Best Friend's and that sometimes it's better to be a bit lonely than bullied.

The children in the audience particularly enjoyed the literal earthiness and related rowdiness Frank brought to Tomato Plant Girl, obviously identified with Holeczy's Little Girl, and viewed with horror the bad manners, vibes and worldview of Armintrout's Bossy Best Friend. As an (arguable) adult, I admired the subversiveness of the work -- "trust yourself" is a motto that children are seldom taught. Metro Theater Company, however, always has subversive, life-affirming messages for its patrons, and Tomato Plant Girl is one of its best efforts at mixing charming theater with necessary but seldom given instruction.

-- Harry Weber

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