Raleigh Little Theatre’s opening night of The Last Night of Ballyhoo, a comedy by Alfred Uhry, author of Driving Miss Daisy and winner of 2 Tony awards, was met with laughter from Scene 1.
The play is set in Atlanta, Georgia in 1939 and takes place in the living room of a Jewish (“all the way back, on both sides”) family. Adolph Freitag (Jeff Cheek) shares his home with his sister, Boo Levy (Debra Grannan), their sister-in-law Reba Freitag (Donna Rossi-Youngblood), and the women’s daughters Lala Levy (Izzy Burger) and Sunny Freitag (Kate P. Bowra). As Gone with the Wind premiers in theaters and Hitler invades Poland, the big topic at the Freitag home is who is attending the upcoming dance, Ballyhoo.
The family half-heartedly claims its Jewish heritage. Lala decorates a Christmas tree in the first act, and Boo’s only objection is to the star on top. Joe Farkas (Erich Reinhard) steps into the family as Adolph’s employee at the family’s bedding company. His embodiment of Jewishness creates tension in the Freitag home and calls attention to their hypocrisies.
The cast members are skillful with comedic timing, and the witty exchanges between them are believable. Izzy Burger’s animated voice and facial expressions bring a Lucille Ball charm to 22-year-old rosy-cheeked Lala. Peachy Weil, played by Brian Jackson Gill, is a delightful addition to the cast in the second act, and Gill’s energetic performance is a perfect match for Burger’s Lala. Under the direction of Haskell Fitz-Simons, The Last Night of Ballyhoo is charmingly captivating to the end; even with moments of tense family drama and some serious issues, it is never long before the next bout of laughter.
The Last Night of Ballyhoo is playing at Raleigh Little Theatre through April 24th.