“The Last Night of Ballyhoo”

“The Last Night of Ballyhoo” is playwright Alfred Uhlry’s 1996 followup to “Driving Miss Daisy.” The show runs through Feb. 17.

By Gayle Suggs

For The Crier

In 1987, Alfred Uhry wrote a modest little play about the Atlanta he once knew. He called it “Driving Miss Daisy,” but he had no idea how far that drive would go—all the way to Hollywood, where it won the Oscar for Best Picture two years later. 

Uhry returns to a bygone Atlanta once again in “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” his 1996 follow-up. He examines, once more, certain human impulses we never seem to escape. Not that this is such a grim affair. When we think of “Daisy,” we recall the laughter and warmth, and we tend to forget how much healthy medicine we ingested in the process. This is Uhry’s special gift. 

Atlanta, December of 1939. “Gone with the Wind” is about to premiere downtown. Hitler has just invaded Poland. In the neighborhood, however, a Jewish family looks forward to Ballyhoo, a lavish cotillion ball sponsored by their restrictive country club. But Joe Farkas, an attractive eligible bachelor from Eastern Europe, wonders what’s happening to the Jewish identity of this community. He thinks Sunny, a college student, needs to give it some thought. This opens a Pandora’s Box of attitudes, biases, and presumptions she has never considered.

However, this is an ensemble show, and director Mira Hirsch has assembled quite a cast. Maggie Birgel (Sunny Freitag) and Shaun MacLean (Joe Farkas) bring sensitivity, depth, and warmth to their characters. Lucy Rose Gross is charming as the energetic yet unsure Lala Levy. Jared Simon is benevolent, long-suffering Uncle Adolph, the patriarch of the blended Freitag/Levy family. Pamela Gold is snobbish, overbearing Boo Levy, while Stage Door veteran Ann Wilson portrays her sweet-natured and slightly daffy sister-in-law, Reba Freitag. Rounding out the cast is Elliott Folds as the loud, boisterous suitor, Peachy Weil. 

Set Designer Chuck Welcome has created a masterpiece worthy of its Habersham Road address. Jim Alford’s costumes are spot-on for the period, as are Kathy Ellsworth’s properties design and George Deavours wig design. Other members of the production team include J.D. Williams (Lighting Design), Rial Ellsworth (Sound Design), and Bill Byrne (Stage Manager).

Bravo, Stage Door. The play shines, the cast sparkles, and the crowd is appreciative. Don’t let the “last night” of this production pass before buying your tickets; the ballyhoo is well-deserved.    

“The Last Night of Ballyhoo” continues through Feb. 17 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. There are two additional Thursday performances on Feb. 7 and 14 at 8 p.ml.

Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Rd., and at stagedoorplayers.net. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 770-396-1727.

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