note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
TALLEY’S FOLLY is Lanford Wilson’s sweet, slow, eccentric love story, a throwback to the film romances of the thirties and forties where two unlikely individuals find a hard won solace in each other. As a fan of lovely, lyrical plays (like Horton Foote’s) “where nothing happens,” I savored the pace and the sense of inevitability Wilson creates for his characters. Since I knew the couple’s future from Wilson’s first play of his trilogy, FIFTH OF JULY, I felt a real sadness watching Sally and Matt find their way into each other’s arms, knowing that she will outlive her big-hearted, gregarious teddy bear of a husband. Isn’t it odd? What a peculiar nostalgia you can feel for people who aren’t real!
Matt Friedman is Jewish and Sally Talley is not. It’s 1944 and Matt is a socialist, not a popular political position when most Americans are embracing the war effort with gusto. Sally’s rural Missouri family, except for a clever aunt, strenuously disapproves of the upstart from St. Louis who views prosperity as the “danger” ahead.
Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play subtly addresses very large issues by personalizing them--- like what has been happening to Jews all over Europe during the war: When Matt tells Sally about his family, after she shares about hers, his sardonic comment about Europe being “wasteful with its people” speaks volumes about the Holocaust. Wilson need say no more about it to have us see the enormity.
Adam Zahler’s canny direction makes Matt’s determination -- and aggression (He’s not taking ‘NO’ for an answer) -- seems ever so romantic. Remember, the play is set in 1944, way before “stalking” entered our vocabulary. Stephen Russell makes Matt an earnest, if gangly, hero to rescue Marianna Bassham’s fragile maiden-in-distress. The two seem so mismatched that we, just like Sally, need convincing---and we get it in Zahler’s heartfelt production.