FRIGID Festival 2019: Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life
Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life is Keith Alessi’s life story, from Italian immigrant to storytelling banjoist. Through his stationary blocking, Alessi draws you into his experiences, describing his relationships with each parent, their poverty, and an affinity for tomatoes. Alessi sits among three distinct-looking banjos, which I (mistakenly) thought were set pieces. In fact, each banjo represents a different stage of Alessi’s life, and is played along with the stories it accompanies.
The play takes us on a journey through Alessi’s immense business success, working his way out of childhood poverty and into a blessed adulthood. We learn about his first retirement, which didn’t take, and eventually follow him to his esophageal cancer diagnosis, which brings some of the most poignant lessons of the whole play. Alessi’s style is genuine and unassuming, and his occasional banjo playing brings a layer of personality to a refreshingly simple piece.
On a Scale from 1 to Weird: 1
Who should see this? Anyone interested in the banjo, hoping to learn an instrument, or looking for a little meaning in life.