Anthony Morris and John Gibson, the zany producer-director-writer duo who brought Atlanta “Peachtree Battle,” the longest running show in Atlanta history, are at it again. This time it’s “Tea Party,” which recently opened at the Ansley Park Playhouse for an open-ended run.
“You’ve never met Republicans like these!” say the ads for the current comedy, and few would argue. Picture an enclave of African-American Tea Party members in Mississippi, led by Congressman Cannon (Patrick Jackson) and his wife Clarissa (Tonglia Davis), aided by Preston (Truman Griffin), the earnest, eager-to-learn young white political apprentice. In addition there is Momma Cannon (Sharran C. Mansfield), who hears voices and has a double identity much too volatile for me to reveal here; and Zeke (Richard Allen Lee), the Cannons’ hunky football playing son who just possibly might be gay (not a Tea Party asset), and you have an idea of the minefield of hilarity into which we have stepped.
We’ve all heard that politics produces strange bedfellows: You may be sure “Tea Party” puts its own wacky spin on that bromide. The cast, which also features Deborah Ayorinde (Kathryn), Fiamma Sweeting (Whitney), and Liselle Bartholomew (Mary) performs with the boundless zest and slightly skewed enthusiasm Ansley Park Playhouse fans have come to relish. You may recall the “Veranda” trilogy, and “The Limousine Ride,” as well as the aforementioned mega-hit “Peachtree Battle.”
Opening night for “Tea Party” had a few technical glitches and unintentional pauses, but these have doubtlessly been ironed out; the show was also running a tad long when I saw it, but I’ll wager some judicious pruning has already occurred. Mr. Gibson and Mr. Morris are famous for their timely, savvy tinkering, including changing dialogue for a single evening to accommodate the latest news or even a visiting celebrity (and over the years there have been many).
The name of the game at the Playhouse is entertainment; and even though there may be plenty to offend (“Southern Living”once mentioned “racism, homosexuality, immigration, marital problems, alcoholism, and eating disorders”), the comedic spirit always wins out.
And it wins audiences. Ansley Park Playhouse is the most commercially successful theatre in town, consistently selling out its 150 seats in their upscale, comfy Ansley Park address. This theatre proudly boasts “the Ansley Park Playhouse is a for-profit theatre and is non-reliant on taxpayers and receives no federal, state, county, or city funding.” Like Broadway, from whence they take their inspiration. Just imagine—no pre-curtain speeches thanking all their sponsors and asking for more donations. It’s an enviable position.
The careening plot of “Tea Party” remains for you to discover. The cast members are very talented, possess a wonderful improvisational feel—and they work hard for the money (thanks, Ms. Summer). They won’t let you down.
For tickets and information, visit www.ansleyparkplayhouse.com.