– By Lee Woods
‘Tis the Season for holiday shows. Alliance is offering the venerable “A Christmas Carol,” which includes a large and talented cast. I love making the trip downtown to see Alliance shows and a professional theatre at work — I already know the technical values will be outstanding. But, if the notion of fighting downtown traffic scares you like Marley’s ghost, don’t despair, there are worthwhile local offerings.
You might want to drive up the road to Fairburn, where the Southside Theatre Guild resides. This active community theatre has been presenting performances since the 1970s and has great advantages such as large performance space, a renovated movie palace, and a long-standing coterie of devoted volunteers. It makes the large proscenium stage a great framework for presenting a slate of family-friendly, relaxed programming – don’t expect to be challenged here. If you’re the sort who likes to be entertained without fear of profanity, you’ll feel comfortable and right at home.
Southside Theatre’s holiday offering this season is “In-laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should Be Shot)” by Steve Franco. Franco is a Virginian playwright who admits he writes “theatre that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.” He’s succeeded, for the most part.
There is not a thing that is offensive, even with a story that revolves around an extended family being taken hostage on Christmas Eve by a couple of ne’er-do-wells with guns. If the script’s jokes are occasionally bad, well, the audience doesn’t seem to mind.
The set is functional and lighting and sound are mostly on point. If the cast is unevenly talented, we remember that community theatre is exactly the place where people can and should stretch their wings. It’s a good-sized cast but I’d like to make note of one standout: Morgan Henard as Vinny, one of the bad guys, is absolutely delightful and I predict a real future for the lad.
Over at Newnan Theatre Company, it’s another “Christmas Carol.” The first thing to be noted is that this version is from one of Newnan’s own: Playwright and Director Dale Lyles, whose script is utterly delightful. It’s a musical and the songs are just flat-out wonderful.
And, to go one better, Lyles has revamped his original script to take advantage of an outpouring of youthful girls who showed up at auditions. I admire this sort of nimbleness and pluck. Theatre’s an art form that is rarely over-resourced and the ability to squeeze lemonade out of sour apples is a gift. I just wish the entire production were more of one – a gift, that is.
Again, the community theatre talent and tech aren’t quite up to the demands of the flexible staging. “Carol” is an old, familiar story by now and that goes a long way, but there really are no excuses for an actor who doesn’t know their lines, not even in community theatre.
It’s not hard to put these two organizations side by side and make a few comparisons. As noted before, Southside has a real advantage in that their theatre was donated – YES, donated – by the owner of the building a few years ago. Newnan’s not so lucky, and the demands of paying rent on their funky warehouse space required hard choices. And yet, NTC continues to take chances on their programming, like last month’s “Pillowman.” For me, I’ll take pluck and risk taking over comfortable, any day or season.
The Southside Theatre Guild, located at 20 West Campbellton Street in Fairburn, will present “In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should be Shot)” Dec. 1 through 11. Thursday through Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinee showings begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 at the door for adults and $10 for children 10 and under. Tickets can also be found online at www.stgplays.com.
Newnan Theatre Company, located at 24 First Ave in Newnan, will offer a community production of “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1 through 11. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults, $13 for students and seniors, and $10 for children 10 and under. Order online at www.newnantheatre.org .