The Last Night of Ballyhoo
, the current production at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, is a pleasant comedy filled with entertaining, sharply defined characters and hilarious one-liners. Throughout most of the evening, it remains an amusing piece. The Last Night of Ballyhoo
, written by Alfred Uhry, opened on Broadway in 1997 and had a successful run of sixteen months. The play is about the misadventures of a dysfunctional Jewish family in 1939 Atlanta.
On display at CTD are several sharp performances, particularly in the more conspicuous roles. As Boo, one of the family matriarchs, Sue Loncar added zest to her lines and through the use of clever vocal inflections made them seem even funnier. Ginger Goldman's portrayal of Lala, Sue's daughter, was an eccentric delight. She pushed her voice up to a girlish squeal that registered new levels on the richter scale which accompanied facial expressions that were a maze of rolling eyes.
As Boo's sister-in-law, Reba, Cindee Mayfield presented a voice of reason in the rambunctious household and added to the festivities with a knowing air and was the perfect foil for some of the more zany characters on stage. Randy Pearlman turned in an admirable job as the family's world-weary patriarch and Andrews C. Cope made a dashing romantic lead.
Cheryl Denson has done a meritorious job in her direction of the piece. All the characters are well defined, with excellent accents that are realistic and not stagy. The play is constructed so that each character gets time to shine in the spotlight, and Miss Denson ensures that this indeed is the case. The First Act quickly takes on an unequalled momentum as the audience becomes quickly caught up in the characters and their various situations.
Rodney Dobbs' main set and Aaron Patrick Turner's costumes are magnificent. The main set creates several small playing areas to capture both the intimate and larger aspects of the plot. Both the set and costumes evoke the 1930s perfectly without being self-conscious.
When The Last Night of Ballyhoo focuses on comedy, it is a delight. Unfortunately, when the play moves in a dramatic direction about prejudice and the adverse affects of assimilation, the play becomes bogged down in philosophical talk that is ultimately preachy. This is especially apparent in the final two scenes of the play.
However, The Last Night of Ballyhoo contains some of the most amusing lines ever to grace the stage and the CTD production has truly droll performances to put them over. It is worth seeing just to hear Sue Loncar's priceless delivery of Boo's capsule review of the film Gone With the Wind.
The Last Night of Ballyhoo will run at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas through December 31. For more information, please visit their website.
Photo Credit: George Wada