The Last Night of Ballyhoo
The Last Night of Ballyhoo
By Alfred Uhry
Directed by Tad Ingram
Starring Kristin Shoffner, Carine Gaito, Kevin Alonso
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL
While many people despise the Jews, none do it with such flair and panache as other Jews. At least that’s what’s happening in 1939 Atlanta: as Hitler initiates his new world order in Poland, the Freitag/Levy family clings to its social status in moneyed Atlanta. Adolph Freitag (Robert Svetlik) never married so he has plenty of time to make bedding while his widowed sister Boo Levy (Shoffner) bitterly climbs for status in the only Jewish household on Hempstead Avenue. Well, there IS one other, but it’s on the tacky end of the street so it doesn’t count. Things have gotten so bad the cook quit right before the (Christian) holidays, and there’s no real prospect of date for her barely marriageable daughter LaLa (Gaito). Adolf’s new assistant Joe Farkas (Alonso) might do, except he’s from… well, let’s just say his people came from East of The Elbe by way of Brooklyn. That would never do down at the exclusive Standard Club where neither Christians nor Ashkenazi are appreciated. Smart ass Peachy Weil (Parker Slaybaugh) saves the day by asking LaLa to the Ballyhoo Cotillion. He’s a practical joker but a nice guy; his parents don’t care if he marries LaLa. Neither does he, but at least everyone has a dance partner.
A gentle comedy of mores, “Ballyhoo” pokes around in the crevasses of the successful and not completely accepted. The family relations are hard to keep straight without the handy family tree in the program, but if you just take this as intersecting love stories, it’s easy to follow. Joe seems genuine confused that Jews could discriminate against Jews, but this is the Old South, and discrimination is a mark of gentility. Shoffner seemed continually strident, and opposite her we find Adolph’s sister-in-law Sunny (Katie Thayer). Just like her name telegraphs, she only sees the positive and has high hopes for Lala who’s 22 and still stuck in middle school. I loved Slaybaugh’s Peachy, he was a complete switch from the stuck up and futzy Freitag household. Everyone here draws a distinct view on the situation, from Boo’s dislike of a Christmas star on the Hanukkah Bush to Adolph’s stolid businessmanship to Joe’s confused outrage. The double standards of this family lurk in all of us, and I’ll add this – the set was gorgeous. These people may be discriminating against their own, but they also discriminate when they go shopping at Rich’s Department store down on Peachtree.
For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu