CARLSBAD — Join Carlsbad Playreaders for its Southern-fried holiday production, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” at 7 p.m. Dec.1, at the Dove Library Schulman Auditorium, 1775 Dove Lane. No reservations are necessary and there is a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $1 for students.
It’s December 1939 in Atlanta, home to the Freitag family, an upper class Ashkenazi German-Jewish clan so assimilated they have a Christmas tree in the front parlor. “Gone With the Wind” is about to premiere and Hitler is preparing to invade Poland, but the biggest worry in the Freitag household are preparations for the upcoming lavish cotillion known as Ballyhoo, the highlight of the social season.
Bob Bender, who directed and performed in the last three Playreader productions of The 1940’s Radio Christmas Carol, has assembled an outstanding cast: Eric Poppick, Jill Drexler, Sacha Volek, Candace Deitch, Kelly Iversen, Nathan Venzara and Sean Hannify. Drexler plays the part of Boo. Written by Alfred Uhry (author of “Driving Miss Daisy”) for the 1996 Summer Olympics Arts Festival, the play is based on his childhood memories .
“I went to one of the last Ballyhoos there was, when I was 16,” Uhry said. “It was like a German-Jewish debutante ball.”
Originally a series of vignettes about several families, Uhry rewrote the play and focused on the Freitag family for the Broadway production of the show. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the play was honored with the Tony for Best Play of 1997.
The comedy-drama explores Jewish identity, including prejudice inflicted on Jews by other Jews, as well as Southern social climbing by hilarious characters whose conversations often consist of outrageous judgmental banter “Scarlet O’Goldberg.” Laughs, romance and introspection combine with the age-old problem of “fitting in.”
Carlsbad Playreaders is made possible in part by support from the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Office, the City of Carlsbad and the Carlsbad City Library. For more information, visit www.carlsbadplayreaders.org.