Last Night of Ballyhoo brilliantly mixes Southern and Jewish gentility and bigotry in a slice-of-life presentation. When Eastern European Jew Joe Farkas (Jeff Silver) pays a visit to his boss Adolph's (Rusty Allison) family (the "right kind of Jews" from Germany), romance and drama ensue. It's December 1939; Atlanta is abuzz about the premiere of Gone with the Wind. A squinty and bespectacled Lala buys a hoop dress that inspires her uncle Adolph to call her "Scarlet O'Goldberg." But her mother, Boo (Miki Edelman), is more concerned about getting Lala a date to the lavish Jewish ball, Ballyhoo, than the movie. She wonders why her odd daughter can't be more like her cousin, Sunny, a bright-eyed and polished college girl. Boo takes out her unhappiness on the whole family, treating brother Adolph like a ball and chain and snapping at her sociable sister Reba (Merry Jo Pitasi). Joe, proud of his Jewish heritage, questions the ignorance of this dysfunctional family, which hides its Jewishness. The play moves slowly, but the dialogue and characters are fascinating and realistic. Miki Edelman is flawless as Boo. She marvelously mixes a sharp tongue and quick temper with innate sadness and highbrow racist snobbery. Elizabeth King is delicious as Lala. Her appearance provides comic relief; she balances her glasses and horse-toothed grin beneath a tussle of wild black curls decorated with two tiny bows. She slouches, fidgets, and bounces like a preteen in saddle shoes. As weak-willed as a willow, she bends easily under her mother's hard-edged manipulation. Charming, intelligent, and in love, Meryl Bezrutczyk as Sunny plays all her moods perfectly. Aaron Lee is clever and funny as Peachy Weil, Lala's "prospective." For characters and controversy alone, this is a worthwhile night out. (Through November 28 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, 954-344-7765.) -- Rachel Galvin
Anna in the Tropics:Nilo Cruz directs his Pulitzer Prize-winning play with theatrical flourishes, but there's a decided lack of character detail and substance. Cruz's tale of adulterous romance among Cuban cigar makers in 1929 Florida features exquisite poetry and a complex Chekhovian narrative of a traditional family business facing the advent of modern mechanization. The widely anticipated production, Cruz's first crack at directing his own work, offers outstanding production design and a competent ensemble cast, but Cruz as director doesn't exploit the shadings and emotional textures of his own script. The result is flashy and often funny but ultimately frustrating. (Through October 24 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, 305-442-4000, www.cgplayhouse.com.)
Singin' in the Rain: It's 1927, and talkies have come into vogue. Diva Lina Lamont's voice is so dreadful that producers dub in the angelic chanteuse Kathy Selden's (Margot De La Barre). Things get sticky when Lina (Laura Summerhill) insists that her "publicity" romance with on-screen partner Don Lockwood (Tim Falter) is real, though Don loves Kathy. This ambitious undertaking doesn't flow until scene ten, with the song "Moses Supposes," which includes a great tap number by Courtier Simmons (Cosmo Brown) and Falter. Part of the problem is technical. The actors are often over-the-top, but they warm to their characters. The meat of the play is in the song and dance. Simmons monkeys about the stage doing some well-intentioned roly-poly choreography over couches for "Make 'Em Laugh," but it comes off too contrived. He teams up with De La Barre and Falter for "Good Morning," with delightful results. But it's Falter's performance of "Singin' in the Rain" that everyone waits for; "real rain" falls, making it one of the more interesting moments on stage. Once the production gets the kinks out, it might be a hit. (Through November 12 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, 954-327-7575.)
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