This paper is a critique of a production of The Last Night of Ballyhoo, a play written by Alfred Uhry, which was performed and produced by the Ball State University Theatre. Gilbert L. Bloom directed the production and was very successful with producing a truly entertaining, comedic play with an important message about the personal dilemmas that we as individuals with different beliefs and values must encounter in our daily lives.
All elements of the production were wonderfully implemented making The Last Night of Ballyhoo quite a success. The performers were perfect for the roles in which they were cast. For example, Lala’s (Erin Rae Lengkeek) character is supposed to be a romantic dreamer and very childlike. The actress who portrayed Lala did an excellent job even her voice and attitude were quite appropriate for the role. Likewise, the actress who played Sunny (Jennie L. Keller) also did a fabulous job of portraying her character. Sunny’s character had a more mature attitude and therefore presented herself in a more adult manner then her cousin Lala. Her physical features also differed from Lala’s; Sunny was tall, broad and had an assertive voice. Lala on the other hand was shorter, looked to have had a bit of baby fat left on her frame and had a childish voice. The other characters also were well cast for their roles, for example Peachy (Matthew Hickman) was described to the audience as having bright red hair and was portrayed though his telephone conversation with Lala as having a joking, wisecracking attitude. And sure enough when Peachy made his first appearance all these characteristics could be seen.
Lala, Sunny and Peachy are just a few of the characters that were cast in the play. Be assured, however, that all the others were also suitably cast for their roles in the production. Thus, making the character selection only one of the key elements in the production’s success.
When it came to the dialogue of the production and the understanding of it the performers again did an excellent job. Their gestures and vocal elements all aided in the production’s success and were all fittingly used by the characters. For example, when Lala was talking on the phone with Peachy she casually twirled the phone cord in her hand, leaned against the banister and childishly flirted with Peachy.
When it came to sound quality all characters projected their voices well and enunciated clearly. The southern accents used by the characters played an important role in the over all success of the production. Not only did it help to aid in giving the viewer an idea of the setting of the play, but also aided in the over feel and mood of the production.
The technical aspects of the production such as scenery, properties and costumes also played a keynote in the productions success. The scenery was fabulous it truly made the play. It was very realistic and extremely vibrant. Almost the entire play was performed in one setting, except for the railcar and dance scenes. The house, the main setting, was magnificent with painstakingly placed detail in every corner. All elements in the house matched wonderfully, for example the furniture, the photos on the wall, the telephone and even the trash can. Little bits of detail were everywhere adding to the beautification of the set, for example the lace decorations on the chairs, the etched glass above the front door and even the Christmas tree.
The properties also were wonderfully used, for example Lala’s photograph of Scarlet O’Hara, which she proudly displayed upon her arrival home from the movies. Many other properties were used though out the play such as the luggage in the boxcar, the candles on the dinner table and the umbrella given back to Reba (Lynn Downey) from their previous cook. There were a lot of properties used in the production, all which aided in the success of the production.
The costumes were also quite beautiful and wonderfully tailored to each character. The many different dresses belonging to Lala were the most striking of all the costumes; especially her green ball gown that resembled the one Scarlet O’Hara wore in Gone with the Wind.
Lala’s dresses were a lot more colorful and extravagant them those of Sunny. Sunny on the other hand wore dresses that were more toned down and mature in appearance. This difference in costume selection for both the character of Lala and Sunny is quite appropriate for each of them and thus fits their personalities.
The same is also seen in the selection of costumes for Peachy and Joe (Brad Coolidge). Peachy like his girlfriend Lala is more apt to wear clothing that is glamorous and attention getting, such as his tuxedo with tails he wore to the dance. Joe on the other hand is more of a casual, plain guy, like his girlfriend Sunny, who wore a suit to the dance.
Each performer in the play wore clothing that was appropriate to his or her character. All costumes seemed to be worn in comfort and ease, even though Lala did portray her Scarlet O’Hara dress as being difficult to wear due to it’s large hoop shirt.
When it came to the sound, music and lighting again all of the elements fit together beautifully. The sounds were right on the mark, such as the train whistle during the boxcar scenes. The music was also right on key and appropriately used for the scenes, for example the playing of the Christmas chorals and who can forget the playing of the theme from Gone with the Wind when Lala walks down the staircase wearing her Scarlet O’Hara look alike dress. The music during this scene of the play was very humorous and added to the comical aspects of the production. The volume was just enough during the play and not once were the characters voices muffled.
The lighting was also well used though out the play and came and went at just the right time though out the performance. Again the lighting also added to the humorous aspects of the play, for example when Lala was walking down the stairs, wearing her green Scarlet O’Hara dress and the theme from Gone with the Wind was playing the lighting on the set made it look as if she was in a dream like state.
The lighting was also very effectively used to show the coming and going of cars on the set. The reflection of lights on the front door of the house were used resemble those of an automobile. Even the final scene had just enough absence of light that the shadows of the characters could be seen sitting around the dinner table and praying by candlelight. At the very end of the performance the candles were extinguished consuming the set in blackness in turn signifying the end of the production.
My mother went and viewed the performance of The Last Night of Ballyhoo the night before I did. She acquainted me with the meaning of Ballyhoo and the plot of the play. She stated that the play was well done and I would enjoy it. I don’t believe I have seen I better play this year. It was wonderfully put together and very funny and I’m not just saying that because the director is my theatre instructor. I wish I hadn’t seen the play on the last night of the performance, because I would have loved to see it again.