Many years ago I had the delight of seeing John Gibson and Anthony Morris’ "Peachtree Battle". Now in its 10th year, "Peachtree Battle" is a farce about a highly dysfunctional Southern family. Its topical humor and local flare makes it a piece that has stood the test of time. The dynamic duo of Gibson and Morris attempt the same magic formula with their most recent venture, "Tea Party".
"Tea Party" is about Congressman Cannon from Mississippi and his unconventional African-American family. The family’s matriarch is no-nonsense Clarissa Cannon who rules the roost and whose sole purpose of life is to get her husband on the 2012 presidential ballot.
Add in a newly hired press secretary, Preston; a crazy grandmother, Momma Cannon; an oversexed sister-in-law, Whitney; and the gay football player son, Zeke, and you have the makings for some serious mayhem. Basically, the play centers on Clarissa Cannon’s manipulating exploits as she navigates her husband through the tricky waters of a possible presidential ticket.
She will go to any length to make sure he is successful, including hiring a white press secretary to make her husband look better to Mr. and Mrs. America. This is not an easy job since the Congressman is a skirt-chasing, liquor-drinking, politically incorrect boob -- in other words, your basic politician.
Inside of this, white Preston is falling for his black counterpart, Kathryn, who Clarissa is trying to marry off to gay Zeke, who in turn is the only one who understands crazy Momma Cannon who may not be as crazy as she seems. Confused yet? It all ends with a bit of a twist where everyone gets what he or she really wants.
This is a fast-paced play with a lot of dialog. I am in awe at the actors’ abilities to memorize such a load and still deliver their lines with precise skill and timing. Speaking of actors, this play is blessed with talent. While all the cast was stellar, a few stood out to me.
Clarissa Cannon, played by Tonglia Davis, is fierce, funny and downright believable in her role. Congressman Cannon, portrayed by Patrick Jackson, helped keep the audience in stitches with his styled one-liners. The sister-in-law, Whitney, played by Fiamma Sweeting, added much humor and diva-lusciousness to the show. Also, the part of Kathryn, portrayed by Deborah Ayorinde, gave some innocence and sweetness to this otherwise bawdy production.
Of course, I cannot fail to mention the one character that is a major component that holds this misguided family (and play) together -- Preston, played by Truman Griffin. Mr. Griffin’s comedic timing and bold performance is a lot to carry off for this young star, but he does so with the grace and ability of an old pro. I look forward to seeing where his career takes him.
This was the opening night for "Tea Party", so while it was an overall enjoyable production, it wasn’t without its moments of stumbled lines, slow costume changes and misplaced special effects -- things I know will disappear with time. If you’re in the mood for an evening of unabashed laughter based in some shameless humor, then "Tea Party" will deliver the goods.
"Tea Party" plays through December 18 at Ansley Park Playhouse, 1545 Peachtree Street, in Atlanta. For info or tickets call 404-875-1193 or visit www.ansleyparkplayhouse.com.