note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Matt Friedman … Stephen Russell
Sally Talley … Marianna Bassham
Lanford Wilson’s TALLEY’S FOLLY, the centerpiece in a trilogy that began with THE FIFTH OF JULY and concluded with TALLEY & SON, starts with Matt Friedman, a St. Louis businessman, telling the audience that the play runs ninety-seven minutes during which time he will win the hand of one Sally Talley on a summer’s night in rural Missouri, 1944. The lovers secretly meet in her family’s old boathouse where they play out their thrust-and-parry courtship; Matt tells of his family’s persecution in Europe which has left him not wanting to bring children into such a world and he coaxes a dark secret out of Sally which, in context, is not so dark, after all --- as promised, Sally’s hand is won within the set time frame. Mr. Wilson’s comedy-drama was awarded the 1980 Pulitzer Prize, a questionable gesture for a lengthy dusting-scene lacking in dramatic interest (doubly so since Matt immediately gives away the ending); Matt alternates between Nebbish and Salt-of-the-Earth and Sally is just plain Ornery, rejecting her suitor down to the finish line until, her slate clean, she dwindles into a wife, to quote Mr. Congreve.
Director Adam Zahler, Stephen Russell (Matt) and Marianna Bassham (Sally) make welcome Lyric Stage debuts. Matt describes his story as a Waltz and Mr. Zahler keeps his lovers circling about though he should also have dug for suspense and passion, but his actors are never less than watchable: Ms. Bassham contributes yet another high-strung filly and is fortunate this time to be paired with a horse-whisperer as gentle and supportive as Mr. Russell who wisely refrains from underlining Matt’s obvious lovability (especially in a cloying moment with ice skates). Janie E. Howland’s charming, ramshackle setting is undone by John Cuff’s pedestrian lighting, devoid of summer heat and moonlit water; in a play as grounded as this, every bit of stage-magic would have helped.