Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The Community Players final show of their 80th season is "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" directed by Vincent Lupino. It takes place in 1939 in Atlanta during the premiere of Gone with the Wind and the elitist German Jews are more concerned with the top social event of the season, Ballyhoo, than with Hitler's invasion of Poland. The show is about accepting one's shared heritage and not denying it. The social distinctions don't matter, every individual should be taken for who they are, not for where they came from.
Vincent is a meticulous director and it comes through in this presentation. The first act is talky with the introduction of the characters and situations but it picks up speed in the second act bringing it to a satisfying conclusion. He surrounds himself with talented people onstage and backstage. His stage manager, Michael Roderick, keeps things in order especially with the set changes. He makes it flow from one scene to the next. (The moving rocking chair captured the audience's eye in every scene.) The period costumes are by Marcia Zammerelli (Loved the "Gone with the Wind" gown) and the 1930's wig stylist is Maryann Coleman. The mood setting music by Dan Kirby adds greatly to the flavor of the show. (Some of the songs used are "Puttin on the Ritz", "You Made Me Love You" and the "Tara" theme.) Set designer Lindsay Doyle creates an authentic looking 1930's Atlanta home using black curtains, window flats, a stairway and different furnishings.
Janette Gregorian plays Boo Levy, a widow who is a bitch. She bosses her brother, sister-in-law, daughter and everyone she runs into around. Janette shows how this sharp tongued woman felt slighted by being cut out of the family business. She pushes her daughter into a marriage because the boy's family has breeding and the right kind of background. Janette displays Boo's denial of her Jewishness by snubbing an Orthodox Jewish young manevery time he visits their house. Her excellent acting prowess comes through in this unpleasant character and Janette's interactions with the others is right on the money.(She usually plays comedic rolesbut this part shows she can handle a pushy role, too.)
Lanny Slusher plays the wealthy, Adolph Freitag. He makes this over eating Southern gentleman funny. He also displays the man's warmth to his family and employee. One of the best scenes is when he stands up to the overbearing Boo and tells her off. Her constant nagging finally gets to him and Lanny handles the scene beautifully.
Patricia Luca (formerly Joaquin) plays the dippy sister-in-law Reba perfectly. She has most of the comic lines in the show and she makes them count. Patricia infuses the character with the needed sympathetic qualities to make her a good and caring mother and family member. Charles Garabedian plays Joe Farkas, the Russian Jew from Brooklyn. His character oozes with such charm and friendliness, you root for him to win the girl of his dreams. Charles also gives Joe a strong backbone. He stands up to the bigotry around him and shows his girlfriend Sunny how to accept her true heritage, thus accepting him, too. Great job in his fourth role on stage. The beautiful Eve-Marie Kukulka makes Sunny, a breath of fresh air in this eccentric family. She has wonderful chemistry with Charles and the kiss is the culmination of their relationship. Eve-Marie shows the hurt, Sunny felt as a child being singled out as being Jewish. She displays it again when she realizes she unknowingly has hurt Joe's feelings by not accepting his being a Russian Jew. Eve-Marie handles this role wonderfully. The final member of the family, Lala is played by Allison Messina. She makes the deluded, whining, college age girl funny. Her entrance in the"Tara" ballgown and her fainting in it is hysterical. Allison makes this unpleasant petty girl into a winner at show's end by snagging her man, thus making her mother, Boo finally happy.
Last but not least is the scene stealing,red headed, Dan Fisher as Peachy. He enters in the second act as a whirling dervish full of off color jokes and stories. Dan brings up the comedic level several notches by his antics and delivery. The story of his nine year old cousin as his date for Ballyhoo is cleverly set up and the punchline comes across perfectly. He is just pulling Lala's leg. His entrance into the family business knocks the wind out of Uncle Adolph's sails but you can be sure Peachy will liven this family up. Dan livens this performance up perfectly. Go catch this show in the air conditioned theater in Pawtucket at Jenks Jr. High auditorium.