Jeff Smith 12:01 p.m., March 29
The Last Night of Ballyhoo
Atlanta, December 1939. Gone With the Wind is opening downtown, and Christmas draws nigh, which means, for the city's Jewish community, Ballyhoo will soon be here: hayrides, parties, and a dance on the last night designed for eligible women and men not only to "embrace your heritage" but seek prospective mates. Alfred Uhry's comedy-drama takes place in an interim between the Great Depression and World War II, but in the Freitag family there's always drama aplenty. This is a world where a torn dress is a catastrophe, a corsage a shining star. It's also a world where anti-Semitism exists without and within the Jewish community. The script pays tribute (i.e. owes a debt) to Tennessee Williams's Glass Menagerie. But instead of sad, imploding Laura, Uhry gives us Lala Levy, who wears her emotions on her sleeve, skirt, and, when she faints to the floor, bloomers. For Scripps Ranch Theatre, DeNae Steele gives Lala an emotional hair-trigger. Her eyes respond to every word, converting each into sky-high joy or doom-shrouded fear. Roller coasters ride more smoothly. Steele's would be a standout performance if the Tim Irving-directed production were of lesser quality. But Irving has assembled a fine cast of savvy veterans (Jill Drexler, Dana Hooley, Danny Campbell) and new faces (Jude Evans, Morgan Trant, and Alex Chernow, each a young actor to watch) and gives the piece a tight ensemble feel, including repartee between the lines and familial subtexts suggesting years of strain just below the surface. They perform on Tim Wallace's detailed set and black walnut furnishings and wearing Mary Larson's 1939 apparel. Another well-done show at Scripps Ranch, which has become the norm of late.
Worth a try.
When: Ongoing until Saturday, December 6, 2008
- Sundays, 2pm
- Fridays, 8pm
- Saturdays, 8pm