The Last Night of Ballyhoo
by Alfred Uhry, directed by Dale McFadden
Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren Nashville, IN 47448
August 6-22, 2010
Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo, directed by Dale McFadden at the Brown County Playhouse, is a funny, touching, thoughtful and thought-provoking look back at a slice of pre-World War II America.
Christmas Trees And Pumpkins
The play opens in the comfortably upscale Atlanta home of the Freitag and Levy family. The family’s daughter, Lala Levy (played by Sarah Fischer) is singing a Christmas carol while she decorates a tree. It’s dismissed as an American ritual in a secular Jewish household. Christmas isn’t important to Lala – what she really wants is to catch a glimpse of Clark Gable at the opening of Gone with the Wind and find a date for the upcoming ball for Southern Jewish singles, Ballyhoo.
Talk of Ballyhoo leads to a decades-old argument between Lala’s mother, the upright and grim Boo Levy (played by IU faculty member Nancy Lipschultz), and her charming but dim aunt, Reba Freitag (guest Nancy Slusser). The origins of Ballyhoo are dubious. Each of the two elder women has a detailed story; it’s obvious that this is an argument that the two have been having for most of their adult lives. Tradition and family history at once enriches and shackles this family.
Finally Adolph Freitag arrives. (The much put-upon but generally good-natured head of the family and of the family business is played by guest Joel Leffert.) Adolph has brought a new employee for dinner, the energetic and positive Joe Farkas (Miles Heymann).
Through Joe, playwright Uhry dramatizes a sharp division, one that has largely disappeared among American Jewry. The Freitag-Levy’s were very assimilated German Jews with scarcely a remnant of culture. Joe is ‘the other kind,’ a more recent immigrant from Russia or Eastern Europe. To them, he’s too Jewish. To him they don’t seem Jewish at all.
Love With Our Kind And The Other Kind
At the heart of The Last Night of Ballyhoo are two very different love stories. Joe meets Reba’s daughter, the eponymous Sunny (Alana Cheshire), as she comes from Wellesley for the holidays. They overcome the nasty implications of being ‘the other kind’ in prewar Atlanta, and fall in love both with each other and with the depth of the Jewish ritual they rediscover.
At the same time, Boo’s daughter Lala goes down a much more traditional path with a date for Ballyhoo and even a wedding engagement from Peachy Weil, played as a gleeful good old boy by Kelly Lusk.
About The Performance
The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a story that’s been well worked out and presented in brief nicely pointed scenes. The over-decorated Freitag-Levy home is nicely realized by set designer Katie McDermott. Linda Pisano’s costumes look good and amplify the characters who wear them. The appearances of her almost hoop skirted ball gown for Lala and more tailored look for Sunny are striking moments.