April 1-10, 2022
This multi-generational comedy/drama is set against the backdrop of the tumultuous late 1960s. It is a poignant glimpse of a working-class family trying to adjust to the changes in the world around them and their own family conflicts. Adult children consider leaving their crumbling Bronx neighborhood to seek the American dream of an idyllic suburban home where tomatoes can grow. The family is forced into upheaval, and as a result, evolves in more ways than one.
Reviews, Meet the Cast and creative team
Tracy Howard (Eleanor Abrams) This show marks Tracy’s first performance with Center Players and she feels so privileged to work with this amazing cast and crew! Tracy began her career as a dancer, appearing in films, such as Center Stage and performing at Radio City Music Hall. She has performed in theatre, soap operas and small roles in TV and Film. Some of her favorite stage roles were in performances of Brighton Beach Memoirs, Chicago and A Chorus Line. Her first love will forever be acting. She has worked as an audience coordinator, producer and is currently a researcher for a long running Court TV Show. She owes a huge thanks to Andrew and her Gore4 for all their patience and schedule adjustments. For Mom and Dad; I can feel your presence in the front row.
Jackie Kusher (Harry Simms) is a professional actor/singer/songwriter who recently appeared in Joyland an episodic pilot, co-written by Gary Morgenstein, playing different roles in each episode. He made his professional debut Off Broadway at the age of 19, had a record released by RCA Studios at 23, and went on to appear in films such as Bullets Over Broadway and Radio Days by Woody Allen, TV shows including Kate & Allie, Guiding Light, and appeared in many nightclubs in New York City and Los Angeles, most recently at The Friars Club. Love made him decide to pursue the “American Dream” of marriage, house, and children of which he is most proud of. After 30 plus years of only occasional community theater, he's back on stage as Harry Simms in this premiere production of A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx directed by Bernice Garfield Szita. Thank you, with love in my heart, to all who inspire me!
Justin Marinelli (Elliot Abrams) is a sophomore at Howell High School in FPAC and has been acting for 4 years since his debut as Dewey Finn, the lead role in the musical, School of Rock. He’s been taking acting classes at Actors Playground in Freehold, NJ for the past year where he does everything from Meisner technique to scene study. He would like to thank Bernice for casting him in his Center Players’ debut as well as his fellow cast members, friends and family.
Lou Mastro (Sammy Abrams) has been doing community theater for 30 years with many theater companies in Middlesex/Monmouth counties, predominantly performing in musicals. This is an opportunity to utilize different skills to bring a character to life and tell a story. Thanks to family and friends for all their love and support.
Gianna Sophie Minardi (Madeline Kramer) (They/Them) is honored to be playing the role of Madeline Kramer. Gianna has an extensive theater background. They have performed in over 22 productions throughout NJ and won the Junior Theater Festival All Star Performance award 2 years in a row in Atlanta Georgia. Gianna's past credits include Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda, Yertle the Turtle in Seussical the Musical, Tootles, the lost boy in Peter Pan, Madame in Beauty and the Beast, Rafiki in The Lion King and Jasmine in Aladdin just to name a few. Gianna made their debut with Center Players two years ago in A Year with Frog and Toad as LadyBird #1, Young Frog and Mouse. They also performed at Feinstein's/54 Below as a vocalist. Gianna has recently booked their first pilot in TV and Film to hopefully be picked up by a major streaming network very soon as Lourdes in Olga Dies Dreaming based on the New York Times best seller by Xochitl Gonzalez. They are also a classically trained vocalist and studies opera. Gianna would like to thank Bernice for this wonderful opportunity and for being an amazing director, and their mom and dad for always supporting them in the arts.
Andrea Bell Wolff (Gladys Simms) Andrea Bell Wolff is a comic actress and singer with an esteemed show business history. National tour of Hello Dolly starring Carol Channing playing Ermengarde and National tour playing Minnie Fay with Dorothy Lamour. Broadway production with Ethel Merman, Phyllis Diller, Imaginary Invalid at Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia, with Tammy Grimes, E.G Marshall and Ruby Dee. Tour of George M! Josie Cohan. Goodspeed Opera House Lil Abner / Playing Mammy Yokum. Sacramento Music Theater Grease with Linda Pearl and Desi Arnaz Jr. Mickey Rooney Theater Grease with Andrea McArdle. Ed Sullivan Theater with Your Fathers Mustache / warm up girl. Performer Vina Del Mar Chili Music festival. Bottoms up Revue La Vegas and Australia. Since partnering with award winning musical director/composer Jude Obemuller, Andrea has premiered in four critically lauded nightclub shows in NYC. Andrea residues in Holmdel NJ and is married to Robert Wolff, has two children and two grandchildren. Andrea is thrilled to be part of the premier of A Tomato Can't Grow In The Bronx.
Gary Morgenstein (playwright)
Gary Morgenstein’s novels and plays have been featured in national media from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Parade Magazine, the New York Post, and Sports Illustrated to NPR. An award-winning playwright, Morgenstein’s drama A Black and White Cookie, about the unlikely friendship between a conservative African American newsstand owner and a politically radical Jew, won the 2021 Broadway World award for Best Play and Best Actor for its October premiere at Silver Spring Stage outside Washington. Morgenstein’s latest play is Free Palestine, about the firing of a Jewish teacher of Israeli-Palestinian studies. An accomplished novelist, his six novels include the critically-acclaimed dystopian political novels A Mound Over Hell (“1984 Meets Shoeless Joe”) and A Fastball for Freedom (“a dystopian Field of Dreams”). Morgenstein also wrote the book for the off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical The Anthem. He lives in Brooklyn, the Center of the Known Universe.
Bernice Garfield-Szita (Director)
Bernice is honored to have the opportunity to direct the world premiere of A Tomato Can’t Grow In The Bronx and to collaborate closely with its talented playwright, Gary Morgenstein. The multigenerational characters reflect the humorous yet poignant experiences of a family in 1968 coping with their personal dramas and the changing world around them. They, each in their own way, are seeking the American Dream of peace, prosperity and family harmony. Despite Center Playhouse being dark for a good part of the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bernice is proud of the resiliency and creativity of the Center Players’ team that has never given up the vision that our intimate theater will once again bring fine live presentations to our community. She is encouraged that this play could be the beginning of a season of excellent entertainment. After more than 50 years of working in theater and the arts, Bernice feels very grateful for the wonderful people she has had the good fortune to work with and she is particularly proud to have been awarded the NJACT (New Jersey Association of Community Theaters) 2018 Perry Award for Lifetime Achievement. Although she doesn’t work for awards, it is very fulfilling to be recognized by one’s respected peers. Bernice is a child of the 60s and so the culture, history and challenges illuminated in this play resonate deeply with her and she expects that to be true for many of Center Players’ patrons. However, even if you weren’t alive in the 1960s, the themes of child/parent love, marital relationships, family conflicts, political differences and personal journeys are timeless and universal. Bernice feels that the amazing cast and crew of A Tomato Can’t Grow In The Bronx were a delight to work with! Each person bringing his or her talent and artistic devotion to create a beautiful theatrical production for our audiences. She especially thanks her husband, Bob Szita, who produced all of the award-winning plays she has directed over the years. She is grateful for his perseverance and patience in helping coordinate the many details that made this production shine. She is always surprised how calm he can be when the backstage drama of putting on a live show can tip most others. It is with great pride that Bernice offers this beautiful play to remind us, we may not be perfect, but we must never give up our dreams!
Bob Szita (producer)
If you ask Bob about his theater experience he will usually say, “I married into theater.” Although many directors over the years have tried to cast him in a role on stage, he always declines, preferring to work on other aspects of Center Players’ productions. Ever since he and his wife Bernice joined Center Players in 1996, he has produced over 21 plays, including: The Cemetery Club in 2012, which was given 9 Perry nominations and received 3 Perry Awards in the categories of Costumes, Best Supporting Actress and Outstanding Production of a Play. Bob makes full use of his versatile skills in design, construction, repurposing, creative problem solving, and coordination of other skilled team members. Turning a 14 by 17 foot stage into two next-door apartments in the Bronx in 1968 and then into the dining room of a model home on Long Island was challenging, but through the collaboration of a talented, creative and skilled team and with community donations, it all came to life! Bob uses his calm compassionate nature and his 35 plus years of experience as a psychotherapist in private practice to support, inspire and coordinate the many community members that work behind the scenes. He always enjoys the process of bringing a play from the “page to the stage.” Whether he is producing a show or not, he appreciates the bond created through the efforts of a devoted group of volunteers who give their all to create the magic of live theater in Freehold. He believes Center Players is not just a theater in the community, but a community that creates theater.