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November 15, 2011 > Theatre Review: Last Night of Ballyhoo

Theatre Review: Last Night of Ballyhoo

By Mauricio Segura, Photo by Dan Sparks

Insightful, delightful, and hilarious are the three best words to describe The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Winner of the 1997 Tony Award for best play, Ballyhoo is now playing through December 17 at Broadway West Theatre.

Insightful - Set in 1939 Georgia, the play follows the lives of an upper class Jewish family who after years of southern segregation, have themselves slowly parted from their heritage to the point where they now live on a thin line between cultures. Not fully willing to let go of their Jewish roots, but not willing to advertise them either. In fact, they themselves are a bit condescending in the way that they view certain Jews of less wealth as "the other side" and have no problem segregating their own kind. That is, of course, until one of those "other siders" comes into their lives and tries to get them to open their eyes and accept their culture. Ballyhoo doesn't bombard the audience with its premise, but it discreetly reveals how the mindset of certain people can be changed within the area and era they reside in.

Delightful - From the set design of the quaint living room setup, the Christmas tree, and the actors' delivery, this is a delight to watch. In-between the scenes are sounds of old time radio broadcasts of the war as well as pre-swing crooners singing the standards to help set the era mood. Set changes are few, simple, and quick as to not cause any delays or distractions.

Hilarious - The one-liners alone, and this play is full of them, are enough to have the audience in an induced state of constant laughter. The genius of Ballyhoo is the fact that even though it deals with serious subject matter, the jokes and certain situations keep it lively and thoroughly entertaining.

Of course a great play can't be put together without a great cast, and Director Bryan Freeman found the perfect ensemble. Each actor does an amazing job delivering their lines fluently, which as mentioned before, with all the one-liners, timing and delivery are everything; so much so that no actor really stood out above the rest. Sure, there were scenes where a certain actor shined, but to say one in particular stood out for the entire performance? It just doesn't happen here.

J.C. Sales who plays Lala does a wonderful job breathing life into this 20-something, somewhat na•ve girl obsessed with Gone With the Wind. You feel for her character, a somewhat outsider who lives in a dream world because reality isn't offering her what her heart truly desires.

Reba, played by Mary Galde, is the queen of the one-liners which makes this play so entertaining. Not only does she do a great job delivering jokes, she does so without missing a beat. Great acting!

David McGwire (Joe) and Sara Renee Morris (Sunny) work great together. She is a delight portraying the typical southern bell, and he is the only one in the cast not speaking with a southern drawl. In fact, his New York accent is relatively pleasing to the ear.

Martin Gutfried as Peachy, is, as they would say in the south, a hoot! Peachy is a cocky southerner with the world's most annoying laugh. But it works!

Sheila Ellam (Boo) and Spencer Stevenson (Adolf) play brother and sister. Bitterness undermine their relationship for her, as she is a bit jealous that he doesn't like or treat her daughter Lala with the same respect as Sunny. The scene where they both get into a screaming match is both dramatic and well executed.

Overall, The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a must-see production. It's as funny as it is thought provoking. Well worth a night out at the theater. Shabbat Shalom!


Last Night of Ballyhoo
November 11 - December 17
Broadway West Theater Company
4000 B Street
Fremont, Ca
510-683-9218

Performance times are 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There are three Sunday matinees: Nov 20, Dec 4 and 11. Nov 20 and Dec 4 performances begin with a continental brunch (included in price of ticket) at 12:15 pm, and the show begins at 1 pm. The Dec 11 performance starts at 1 pm with refreshments during intermission (included in price of ticket).

Regular ticket prices are $23 general and $18 for Students, Seniors and TBA members. Thursday, Nov 17, Dec 8 and 15 performances are $15 for everyone, with a bargain Thursday held on Dec 1 - all tickets $10. Brunch Sunday performances and Opening night are $23 for everyone. All ticket prices include refreshments.

For reservations and information, call 510-683-9218, or check our website at www.broadwaywest.org.

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