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This review by Joan Crespi was prepared for the January 3, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Review: `Last Night of Ballyhoo’

In this season where "A Christmas Carol" makes

its predictable appearances on stages and on TV, Off-Broadstreet

Theater

is presenting "The Last Night of Ballyhoo," Alfred Uhry’s

Tony Award-winning play of 1997 about an extended Jewish family

sharing

a house in Atlanta, Georgia, at Christmas time in 1939. Performances

continue weekends through January 20 in Hopewell.

This well-acted comedy takes place on the eve of the premiere of

"Gone

with the Wind," which brought Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, and a

host of stars and socialites to Atlanta. Star-struck Lala Levy (Esther

H. Cohen), silly, flirtatious, dramatic, flouncing, empty-headed,

is going down to see them. It is Lala, played with verve, and her

desperate search for a date to Ballyhoo, that drives the play. Her

loud, pushy mother (Gerry Martin), equally worried, even telephones

Louisiana.

"Ballyhoo" is the name of the ball in Atlanta for wealthy,

socially prominent Jews. The ball is said to be famous all over the

South.

"It is a lot of dressed up Jews dancing around and wishing they

were Episcopalian," explains Lala’s cousin, the slim, beautiful,

and stylish Wellesley student Sunny Freitag (Janice Rowland) to Joe

Farkas (Danny Seigel), a New Yorker and a new salesman in Adolph’s

business. Sunny’s mother, the sensible Reba Freitag (Catherine Rowe),

also considers Ballyhoo and all its activity "the whole silly

rigamarole."

But 1939 represents more than the opening of "Gone With the

Wind."

It is also the year when, as the headline in "The Atlanta

Constitution,"

which Adolph is reading later (give Uhry a few months: this is

fiction)

proclaims "Hitler Invades Poland." The audience supplies the

rest. That rest makes Ballyhoo and all its ballyhoo seem frivolous

and silly, but like all true dramatic ironies, its characters don’t

know that.

"The Last Night of Ballyhoo," Uhry’s second play, opened on

Broadway in 1997. The playwright is best known for his first play

"Driving Miss Daisy," also set in Atlanta, where he grew up,

which won the Pulitzer Prize. As a movie, it went on to win Academy

Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Tandy), and Best

Screenplay.

"The Last Night of Ballyhoo" is a romantic comedy in which

the two young women cousins each find a date for Ballyhoo (Sunny’s

date with Joe comes without her trying) and a man to love and marry.

Lala finally secures a date with Sylvan "Peachy" Weil

(Christianized

to "Wheel"), a brash, cocky, pint-sized redhead (wonderfully

played by John Rickett) who proposes marriage. Joe, a Russian Jew,

storms out of Ballyhoo at the restricted Standard Club, where he feels

unwelcome, abandoning Sunny, but he and Sunny reconcile and embrace.

The play is also a sociological study, pointing up the intra-Jewish

snobbery — elite, wealthy German Jews versus the proletarian

Russian

and East European Jews — soon to be subsumed in the war brewing

in Europe.

The five Freitags and Levys all live together because unmarried Adolph

Freitag (Rob Preston), gentle and wearied in this household of women,

supports them all. The household includes his widowed sister Boo Levy,

widowed sister-in-law Reba Freitag, and their daughters, Lala Levy

and Sunny Freitag. Sunny goes to Wellesley, reads Upton Sinclair,

and takes the train home for Christmas time. Her cousin Lala is a

University of Michigan drop-out who is crushed that she didn’t get

into Sigma Delta Tau sorority.

The world is changing. Southern plantation days and hoopskirts, such

as the ridiculous dress Lala wears to Ballyhoo (Adolph dubs her

Scarlett

O’Goldberg), are over. (Jim Parks has created the elaborate costume

that gets its own laugh.) "Ballyhoo" is, finally, a

provocative

play about religious snobbery as the elite Jews learn from the Russian

Jews something of their joint heritage and embrace it. Nowhere in

the play is it mentioned that this will be the "last night"

of Ballyhoo. But we know it will be.

— Joan Crespi

The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Off-Broadstreet Theater,

5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766. $20.50 to $22.

Performances

continue Fridays through Sundays, to January 20.

Top Of Page
Auditions

Philomusica Chamber Choir has auditions for singers for

all voice parts on Monday, January 8, and Monday, January 15, at the

Unitarian Church, Tices Road and Ryders Lane, East Brunswick. To

schedule

call Kim Anderson at 732-254-4311; or visit www.philomusic.org.

Playful Theater Productions is holding auditions for

"Godspell"

on Thursday and Friday, January 18 and 19, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

at Kelsey Theater. Five men and five women over 18 are being cast.

The show will be directed by Ken Ambs, choreographed by Diane Wargo,

with musical direction by Nancy Snyder. Auditions require a two-minute

comedic monologue and 16 bars of a song from any source with sheet

music. Performances are at Kelsey on March 30, 31, April 1, 6, 7,

and 8. Call for appointment at 609-730-9731.

Spotlight Players has auditions for the family musical

"Jack and the Giant" on Saturday, January 6, at 10 a.m., and

on Sunday, January 7, at 2 p.m. Adults, teens, and children over six

are needed. All parts available except the Giant. Bring sheet music;

an accompanist will be provided. Performance dates are March 17 to

27. Auditions and performances will be held at First Presbyterian

Church of Matawan, Route 34 and Franklin Street. Call for information

at 732-583-7874.

2001 Miss New Jersey Teen is accepting applications for

the February 24 event at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Entrants

must be between 13 and 19. The prize package includes a $30,000

scholarship

and an all-expense paid trip to the national competition in Orlando.

The format of the competition is 25 percent swimsuit; 25 percent

evening

gown; 25 percent interview; and 25 percent fashion show. Applications

are being accepted by Stacey Cooper, currently Mrs. U.S. Globe. Call

732-834-9659.

The New Jersey Theater Group will hold auditions by

lottery

for non-equity performers on Monday, February 26, in New Brunswick,

from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Over 25 New Jersey theaters are expected to

attend, including Paper Mill Playhouse, McCarter Theater, New Jersey

Shakespeare Festival, and George Street Playhouse. To enter the

lottery,

send one copy of your picture with attached resume, a note indicating

if you plan to sing as part of your audition, indicate if you are

New Jersey resident or have access to housing in New Jersey, and

enclose

a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope. Mail entries postmarked

by Friday, January 19, to New Jersey Theater Group, Box 21, Florham

Park 07932.

Top Of Page
Volunteer Alert

New Jersey State House, the center of New Jersey’s

government

since 1792, is seeking volunteers to help guide visitors thorough

the historic capitol. Guides lead groups through the newly restored

rotunda, legislative chambers, Governor’s reception room, and

legislative

caucus room. No experience is necessary; volunteers receive complete

training to work on a convenient schedule. Call 609-633-2709.

Princeton Girl Scouts seeks volunteers to assist with

everything from public relations to interpretation. Spanish-speaking

troupe leaders are especially needed. Call 609-683-0121.

The Sharing Network is a non-profit, federally-certified,

state-approved procurement organization responsible for the recovery

of organs and tissue for transplant in New Jersey. For information

about becoming an organ donor or to join the New Jersey Organ and

Tissue Donor Registry, call 1-800-SHARE-NJ or visit the website at

www.sharenj.org.

Preservation New Jersey seeks volunteers to develop ideas

for and help implement fundraising events, as well as PNJ conferences,

workshops, research, and office assistance. Call 609-392-6409.

Top Of Page
Participate Please

The Princeton Adult School has in-person registration

for the spring semester on Tuesday, January 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at

Princeton High School Cafeteria. Over 100 courses range from Indian

vegetarian cooking to classical music, home maintenance, and 12

computer

courses are offered.

Spring highlights include the Anne B. Shepherd Lecture Series which

features university scholars exploring the three great religious

traditions

that emerged from the ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean

basin. In a second new series, eminent art scholars will discuss

aspects

of Art Nouveau. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Princeton

High School and other locations, beginning Thursday, February 1.

Catalog

is available at all area public libraries or call 609-683-1101.

Dancing by the Peddie Lake is an eight-week class offering

instruction in the waltz, fox trot, swing, and Latin dancing. Classes

will be held in the Hightstown Fire House beginning Thursday, January

11 and running through Thursday, March 1. Classes begin at 7:30 p.m.

for beginners and at 8:30 p.m. for intermediate students. No partner

required. The session concludes with a ballroom dance social. Cost

is $65 per person; $110 per couple. Call 609-490-7550.

The Shoestring Players winter drama program for kids

includes

basic acting techniques, fundamental improvisation, and creative

writing

skills for students enrolled in fourth to eighth grades. Using sound

and movement, students will collaborate to write and stage an original

story that they will perform in Shoestring ensemble style. Classes

will be held on Saturdays, beginning February 3 and running through

March 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers

University. The cost if $100 and the deadline for registration is

January 24. Call 732-932-9772.

Innovative Dance Academy offers eight-week sessions in

martial arts training. The instructor, Belida Uckun, received a black

belt in Songahm Taekwondo, a second degree black belt in Combat

Taekwondo,

and a third degree black belt in American Karate (Kenop). Also, Kids

Karate class on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m.; and a teen/adult Karate on

Mondays at 4:30 p.m. Classes are open to anyone regardless of size,

strength, or gender. Register at 609-530-0979.

How to Handle Backcountry Emergencies is an intensive

medical training course recommended for outdoor professionals and

those who spend time in remote areas. The 72-hour "Wilderness

First Responder"course is sponsored by Princeton University

Outdoor

Action Program and will be held in Princeton from January 27 to

February

4. Lectures, full-scale rescue simulation, and debriefing are

included.

For information, call 888-Wildmed or call Darcy at 609-258-6230.

Top Of Page
Call for Entries

Repertorio Espanol and the Metropolitan Life Foundation

announce "Nuestras Voces II," the Second Annual Playwriting

Competition created to develop plays and playwrights that deal with

subjects of importance to the Hispanic community, or which focus on

the Hispanic experience. First place winner receives $3,000 and a

fully staged production of the play. Second and third place winners

receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively; and the two runners up will

be awarded $500 each. All finalists will receive staged readings of

their work. Entries must be postmarked by Wednesday, February 15,

2001. All plays must be full-length, and cannot have received a full

Equity production; prior staged readings are acceptable. Scripts can

be written in Spanish or English; playwrights must be at least 18

years of age. Guidelines and applications are on the company’s website

at www.repertorio.org, or by call 212-889-2850. Submit materials to:

Repertorio Espanol, 138 East 27 Street, New York, 10016.

New Jersey Historical Commission has guidelines and

applications

for the 2001 grants program in general operating support, special

projects, mini-grants, and prizes. Grants range from $1,000 to $10,000

for non-profits or municipal or county government agencies. Call Mary

Murrin at 609-688-8168 or download guidelines at

newjerseyhistory.com.

Princeton Garden Statesmen announces an A Cappella contest

for high school students. Singing groups of 4 to 12 members may enter

the contest and win prizes, trophies, and certificates for themselves

and their schools. Coaching in barbershop style singing is available

on request. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2001. For

information and applications, call Hugh Devine at 609-799-8170 or

e-mail hjdevine@aol.com.

New Jersey Agricultural Society is sponsoring an essay

contest for students in grades 6 through 11. Each grade level will

have three prize winners and the first place winner will receive a

$150 savings bond and plaque. Deadline for entries is January 15 for

essays that should be between 250 to 500 words; may be written or

typed; and will be judged on creativity, originality, neatness, and

the correct use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Call

609-292-8897

or visit the website at www.state.nj.us/agriculture.

New Jersey Child Assault Prevention is accepting

nominations

for an individual or organization that has played a significant role

in the prevention of child abuse on a local or state level. Award

recipients will be honored at the annual awards luncheon on April

20 at the Princeton Marriott. CAP also presents workshops for

children,

parents, and teachers including "No More Bullies, No More

Victims."

Call 856-582-7000 for application or workshop information. Deadline

for applications is January 19, 2001.

Run With Aimee T-shirt design contest is seeking

submissions.

About 1,000 participants in the fifth annual Run With Aimee 5K and

One Mile Ramble will receive shirts at the event scheduled for Sunday,

April 1, at Montgomery High School. Entries must be submitted to Run

With Aimee, c/o Schilke Construction, 301 Valley Road, Hillsborough,

08844. Website: www.runwithaimee.org. Deadline for entries is February

1.


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