Reston Community Players’ The Last Night of BallyhooBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jan 27th, 2007 • Category: Reviews
Listen to our review of Reston Community Players’ production of The Last Night of Ballyhoo [MP3 8:28 2.5MB].
Mike: The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a play by Alfred Uhry. It takes place in Atlanta in December 1939. The story revolves around a Jewish family living in Atlanta. They are trying to fit into contemporary society. The most important thing to the family is the world premier of Gone With the Wind. A few nights later will be the Ballyhoo festival.
Laura: I didn’t know what to expect from this show, but once I got there I was reading the playbill. I really found it interesting. Not only was it well performed and well acted. It kept my attention the entire couple hours. I also learned some things about the Jewish culture in 1939.
Mike: The Last Night of Ballyhoo was about two hours and twenty minutes long with a fifteen minute intermission. It moved along quite well. The pacing was well done. It was a pretty even blending of humor with drama in this show. There were seven actors in the show and they performed together well.
Laura: Each of these actors did a good job. We’re going to discuss each one of them. Lala Levy was played by Jessica Lada. She was… I don’t know, I found her pretty funny. She was over dramatic, the immature whiny daughter, had to have everything her way. She was so concerned about what other people thought. The scene that I thought was really funny and the most telling was when she got dressed for Ballyhoo and the dress she came down in. I could tell some of the actors were trying really hard not to laugh. Then when she fainted it just showed her conceitedness and wanting so desperately to have everybody approve of her and like her and make her the most popular.
Mike: Reba Freitag was played by Sky Henderson. She was really amusing. She was just kind of off kilter, was very supportive of her daughter, Sunny, and also of the family in general. She would make these little asides about society. At one point she said higher education leads to insanity. Of course her daughter was in college.
Laura: Boo Levy was played by Shelley Kramer. She was also trying so desperately to fit into Atlanta Georgia and rise up the social ladder. She was pushing her daughter, Lala, to call people that she really had no desire to call just so they could get into the upper Atlanta Georgia society. One of the scenes that I thought was really good and really touching was when Lala had an altercation and fell on the floor. She wasn’t going to go to the dance. Boo really lit into her daughter and was telling her how important it was to fit in and be a part of Atlanta society. She went to the dance. It seemed like Boo was willing to do anything to climb up that social ladder.
Mike: Adolph Freitag was played by Marshall Henderson. He was the father of the family, the leader of the household. He also ran the family business. He was at times really torn about what was going on in the world. For example, he was reading the newspaper and just mentioned that this Hitler thing isn’t going to end up well. Later he was talking about Hitler and the situation in Europe with both Peachy and Joe. He tried to start having a conversation about it and they weren’t being drawn into it. He also told a touching story about his true love. I think Marshall Henderson did a good job with Adolph Freitag.
Laura: Joe Farkas was played by Michael Voit. His performance held my attention the entire time. He was the outsider who came in to work for Adolph. That’s where he met Sunny. He was from New York. He did not fit in in the Atlanta society, at least according to Boo, which she chose to tell him frequently. The scene that I like was in Act 2 between Joe and Peachy when they were discussing their roles in society and Joe didn’t quite appreciate what Peachy was saying. They almost got into a fight. I liked his performance very much.
Mike: Sunny Freitag was played by Erin Anderson. She was nciely cast as the college student home on break. I enjoyed how she kept her nose in her books during the whole show. Even though she was a college student who supposedly was very liberal, she just didn’t quite understand how going to the Ballyhoo Dance was enough to make Joe feel like he was being discriminated against.
Laura: Peach Weil was played by Alexander Morse. He was just down right obnoxious. He and Lala definitely deserved each other because they were both over the top, over bearing. He thought the world revolved around him and that was why he and Lala will probably spend their married life breaking up and getting back together again when one felt like they were outshining the other. I enjoyed his performance.
Mike: I don’t think that if Lala and Peachy got married, I don’t think they would ever divorce and break up because that would be bad socially. They are both very concerned with appearance. It would probably be an odd marriage, with separately bedrooms.
Laura: The lighting for The Last Night of Ballyhoo was good. The lighting designer was Adam Konowe. I liked it because there were scenes when the house lights would go down and there would be a spotlight on two people. It really seemed to emphasize the scene and make it much more meaningful.
Mike: When you entered the CenterStage at Reston, you were able to see the set, there was no curtain. You were able to absorb all the detail that went into this. It definitely looked like an upper-crust home. And then as you’re reading the playbill, you realize that this play is focusing on a Jewish family. But that’s a little confusing because in the bay window of the home, there’s a Christmas tree. So I was a little concerned, I didn’t quite know what was going on with that. But the set was very nicely done.
The set designer was Maggie Modig, the set decorations were by Bea and Jerry Morse; and the set painting by Maggie Modig and Barbara Swart.
Laura: The costumes were very authentic to 1939. The one thing to point out was the dress that Lala wore to the last night at Ballyhoo was hysterical. It was a cotillion dress, had a humongous hoop skirt. I was afraid when she came down the stairs that she was just going to kill herself, because coming down those steps in that big old hoop skirt, must have taken a lot of practice. It was a funny scene because again it emphasized just how conceited she was.
Mike: It was amazing how much this family was trying to stay a part of Georgia society. The focus that Lala had on Gone With the Wind. Adolph had a nice scene with Jo, talking about how he had never read Gone With the Wind. But if you tell anybody, you’re going to be in trouble. And Joe agreed he wouldn’t tell anybody. I think Adolph was amused by the lengths that his family would go to in order to fit into society.
Laura: The Last Night of Ballyhoo is playing through February 3, at the Reston Community Center in Reston, Virginia. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and a matinee on the 28th at 2:30pm.
Mike: I encourage you to go see this show. It will make you think. The show is amusing, but at the same time, it touches on some very serious issues. I did not realize before seeing the show, that in the 30s, there were issues with Jewish communities, discriminating against other Jewish communities. They did touch on that a bit in the show when they were talking about the problems in Europe, and Peachy said “Well, it’s not our problem. It’s their problem out there.” And that was a very prevalent attitude in the 30s. But I just didn’t realize that even in the Jewish community, that there would be different degrees of taking responsibility for getting involved with what was happening in Europe.
Laura: And now, on with the show.
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.