"The Last Night of Ballyhoo"

A Full Length Play by Alfred Uhry

It's December. Why does this Jewish household have a Christmas tree?. Lisa J. Goodman

The Freitag family lives on Habersham Road. It is the best address in Atlanta and each member of the family takes pride in the fact that they are the only Jewish family to live on Habersham Road (as long as you don’t count that other family “down by Paces Ferry where it gets tacky”). It is December 1939 and World War II is just starting to make headlines in the newspapers and, more importantly to most of the Freitag family, Gone With the Wind is premiering in Atlanta not far from their home.

The Freitag Family

Adolf Freitag, Reba Freitag, Sunny Freitag, Boo Levy, and Lala Levy, are a Jewish family in the predominantly Christian South. They have all the affectations of the southern debutante social class with none of the qualifications that would welcome them into high society. Still, they enjoy a wealthy lifestyle with their own versions of everything in Christian society including Christmas trees, lavish social events like Ballyhoo, and even racism against Jews. In Atlanta there are two kinds of Jewish families: the ones descended from German Jews and the “other” kind - mainly practicing Eastern European descendants.

Ballyhoo, several days of parties and dancing, is the largest social event for young Jewish people in the South. Many young couples meet there and propose marriage or announce to society that they are together. Boo Levy is determined to get her daughter, Lala, there with a good date and a promise of marriage.

Reba Freitag has fond memories of her own days at Ballyhoo and yearns to get her daughter, Sunny, excited about the event, but the studious girl is resistant to the idea of going to Ballyhoo at all until she meets Joe Farkas. Joe not only interests Sunny on an intellectual level, but he challenges her lack of Jewish identity - the first time anyone has done so in her whole life.

The Last Night of Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry unravels a Jewish family layered in generations of attempts to blend into a society that declines to accept them. In the midst of their comfortable lives, they all find a moment to remember where they are from, how they got where they are, and what is most important to them.

Production Details

Setting: Atlanta, Georgia

Time: December 1939

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 7 actors.

Male Characters: 3

Female Characters: 4

Characters that could be played by either males or females: 0

Roles

Adolf Freitag is head of the Freitag family household and the Dixie Bedding Corporation. He is surrounded by the women of his family and uses the evening paper and food as his means to distract himself from their chatter. He cares and loves each of them, but also maintains his distance from them. He does not want to get caught up in their gossip or what he sees as frivolous pursuits. He prefers to keep their emotions at a safe and respectable distance. However, underneath his dry wit and throwaway comments, he cares deeply for each member’s happiness and well-being.

Boo Levy is Adolf’s sister. She lost her husband many years ago and has been living in the house on Habersham Road ever since.

She sees her own life (at least her social life) as over and has focused her attention on steering her daughter, Lala, through the trials and pitfalls of the southern Jewish debutante lifestyle. She resents what appears to be Adolf’s clear preference for Sunny over Lala and acts out at him over the slights she perceives in Adolf’s offhand comments about her daughter.

Reba Freitag is Adolf’s sister-in-law. Reba married the oldest of the Freitag sons and the original head of the Dixie Bedding Corporation. She loves gossip, intrigue, her daughter, Sunny, and needling Boo every chance she gets. She is immensely proud of her daughter but won’t try to steer her in any particular direction, especially if she shows resistance. As far as Reba lets on, she does her best to merely play a supporting role in her daughter’s life.

Lala Levy has big dreams and loves to tell anyone who will sit still long enough every intimate detail of those dreams. Her biggest obstacle to achieving her dreams is her driving need to feel at home and comfortable. She is more attached to her mother and her household than she will ever admit. The Jewish notion of family and guilt is strongly embedded in her character, even though her relatives might not recognize those characteristics as Jewish. Lala feels entitled to the world, but afraid to ask the world for what she wants in case she actually gets it.

Sunny Freitag is naturally gifted in academics, wit, and beauty. She takes great pride in her college career and has little tolerance for the social intricacies of life in Atlanta that captivate Boo, Reba, and Lala. That doesn’t mean she can’t be charmed by handsome men and invitations to dances. Sunny never gave much thought to her Jewish heritage or how important that heritage and religion might be to her until she meets Joe Farkas. She studies nearly everything, but not her own Judaism.

Joe Farkas is Adolf’s new business assistant. He travels the east coast doing business for the Dixie Bedding Corporation. He is the “other” kind of Jewish - meaning he is not from German-Jewish decent, but from an Eastern European family. He grew up in a practicing Jewish family and takes great pride in his culture. He enjoys challenging Sunny about her life and views on religion, but will not tolerate the “Jew on Jew” racism he finds on Habersham Road.

Peachy Weil has a sharp sense of humor and enjoys cutting people down to size with it. He especially enjoys Lala’s reaction to his odd brand of affection through terrible jokes. He comes from one of the most respectable Jewish families in the area and knows he is a prize many young women would love to collect.

Content Issues: Negligible

Resources

Dramatists Play Service, Inc. holds the production rights for The Last Night of Ballyhoo.

Here’s a video of a staged reading of the entire play.