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St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook’s latest dramedy, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” is set to open on March 13. It takes place in December 1939, when the German-Jewish Freitag family, one of Atlanta’s finest, has assimilated into Southern culture to the point that they even have a Christmas tree in their home.
A-twitter with the world premiere of “Gone With The Wind” and the upcoming cotillion at their restrictive country club, the Freitags are caught up in the social whirlwind of Atlanta, far-removed from world events of the time, including Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Dixie Bedding Company owner and bachelor, Adolph Freitag (Thom Griffin, Ferndale), his widowed sister Beulah “Boo” Levy (Sue Mancuso, Bloomfield Hills) and his sister-in-law, Reba Freitag (Sandra Prokopp, Huntington Woods) all live together in Adolph’s home. Boo is seeking a date to take her not-so-popular daughter, Lala (Laura Raisch, Royal Oak) to Ballyhoo, and feels that she has found the perfect man, when her brother brings home his new assistant, Joe Farkas (Paul Dorset, Birmingham), a Jewish Brooklynite of Eastern European heritage.
Familiar with anti-Semitism, Farkas is incredulous when he meets prejudice from members of his own religion. When he falls for Reba’s daughter and Wellesley College student, cousin Sunny Freitag (Molly Schulz, Birmingham), Farkas becomes the Yiddish fly in their assimilated Southern ointment, prompting Sunny to examine her Jewish identity and the beliefs with which she’s been raised. Add bachelor Peachy Weil (Dave Mervak, Royal Oak) and his social standing in the Jewish community and there is plenty of comedy, romance and revelation in this 1997 Tony Award-winning play by Alfred Uhry, who also won the Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar for “Driving Miss Daisy.”
The Ballyhoo “family” was coached on Jewish ritual and tradition by seasoned St. Dunstan’s performer and Jewish Ensemble Theatre veteran Marcia Kahn of Farmington Hills. Family it is, since Uhry intended “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” as a gentle, smiling look at his quirky, wonderful relatives, based on his childhood memories.
“Ballyhoo”‘s co-directors, Laurie Dooley (Huntington Woods) and Paul Gillin (Birmingham), have crafted the balance of a serious message and the comedy of Uhry’s sparkling banter and hilarious characters to provide laughter, enlightenment and growth to St. Dunstan audiences.
“The Last Night of Ballyhoo” performance dates are 8 p.m. March 13-14 and 19-21 and March 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling 248-737-3587, or by visiting the St. Dunstan’s Web site at http://www.stdunstanstheatre.com. Group rates are available upon request.