By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

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.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

6 replies on “Theatre Review: ‘Tea Party’ at Ansley Park Playhouse”

  1. Just a little QA here:
    The actors speak WAY too fast. I was with 4 friends and we all agreed that they spoke so fast that we missed a lot of stuff and we’re not old or hard of hearing. They talk over each other, no pause between speakers. We also agreed that some of the actors scream their lines and that is not fun to listen to. The sound system was a bit of a mess with the TV news suddenly blaring on. I did get a chuckle here and there, but the highlight was the women’s wardrobe!! and the butt shot proving that both testicles were intact. It was fun overall.

  2. Just a little QA here:
    The actors speak WAY too fast. I was with 4 friends and we all agreed that they spoke so fast that we missed a lot of stuff and we’re not old or hard of hearing. They talk over each other, no pause between speakers. We also agreed that some of the actors scream their lines and that is not fun to listen to. The sound system was a bit of a mess with the TV news suddenly blaring on. I did get a chuckle here and there, but the highlight was the women’s wardrobe!! and the butt shot proving that both testicles were intact. It was fun overall.

  3. The show was okay.My husband enjoyed it more than I did.The cast members spoke ‘way’ to fast and we missed a lot of what was being said. But of what we got….there were some very funny lines. We have no idea why the show was called ‘The Tea Party’.The theme of the show had nothing ‘really’ to do with the Tea Party.Politics and some ‘current events’ were thrown in but basically the play was about a man and his family and his vying for becoming Romney’s V.P. and the politics surrounding this.The play had more to do with racism. The fact that the Tea Party would not find a gay person an asset….to me was flawed. I do not think the writers have any idea what the Tea Party stands for. The racist aspect nor the gay issue would not have prevented us from seeing the play….but felt we were misled by the title of the play. BTW; the clothing the women wore and the shoes especially were magnificent.

  4. The show was okay.My husband enjoyed it more than I did.The cast members spoke ‘way’ to fast and we missed a lot of what was being said. But of what we got….there were some very funny lines. We have no idea why the show was called ‘The Tea Party’.The theme of the show had nothing ‘really’ to do with the Tea Party.Politics and some ‘current events’ were thrown in but basically the play was about a man and his family and his vying for becoming Romney’s V.P. and the politics surrounding this.The play had more to do with racism. The fact that the Tea Party would not find a gay person an asset….to me was flawed. I do not think the writers have any idea what the Tea Party stands for. The racist aspect nor the gay issue would not have prevented us from seeing the play….but felt we were misled by the title of the play. BTW; the clothing the women wore and the shoes especially were magnificent.

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