Visiting 'Talley's Folly'

Publication Date: Friday Jun 26, 1998

Visiting 'Talley's Folly'

Set design, Eccles, Jackson and Wilson's dialogue, make TheatreWorks' season opener worthwhile

by Betsy Hunton

The courtship is over a year before TheatreWorks' production of the one-act romantic comedy "Talley's Folly" opens. An improbable pair of lovers, Sally Talley and Matt Friedman, both a bit long in the tooth by 1944 standards for courtship, had met and romanced for a dazzling week the previous summer. Sally (Julie Eccles) is a fully bred WASP from a bigoted family, the only daughter of the wealthiest man in a small Missouri town, and Matt (Jackson Davis) is a 42-year-old immigrant Jewish accountant from St. Louis. Matt has written faithfully throughout the year, despite Sally's disheartening silence. She even hid out for an entire afternoon to avoid him when he showed up unexpectedly at the hospital where she works as a nurse's aide.

Not one to be easily discouraged, the loquacious Matt informs the audience in a casual introduction to the 97-minute performance that he intends to propose. He wants "a no-holds-barred romantic story" and counts on "Talley's Folly," a deteriorating, but lovely, combination boat-house and gazebo long in the Talley family, to provide the proper atmosphere. (Andrea Bechert's set design is extraordinary).

Lanford Wilson's famous command of dialogue is particularly marked in what can only be described as Matt's verbal gymnastics. He plays with words and ideas and showers them over the intransigent Sally who, he notes, despite her protests, has stopped to change out of her uniform and into a beautiful dress before coming to meet him. But it is in the two passages in which Matt and Sally deal with pain from their pasts that Wilson's gift is most dazzling.

Jackson handles Matt's verbosity skillfully--no mean trick. However, his presentation of Matt's mannerisms is uneven, at times almost straying into caricature. When he is in full command of the character, he makes so appealing a presentation that his lapses are startling. Sally is inherently less colorful, but Eccles creates a believable, fully rounded presentation.

The 1944 setting makes "Talley's Folly" chronologically the earliest, but it is, in fact, the second play out of three which Wilson has so far written about the Talley family. (He has suggested that he may write five.) Although it is set in 1977, "The Fifth of July," in which Sally appears as an elderly woman, was written first.

Both plays have been very successful, with "Folly" winning a Pulitzer Prize. A third play, "Talley and Son" which appeared quite recently, deals with the events happening up at the main house while Matt and Sally are in the Folly.

Despite the fact that the other two plays deal with much more painful materials, "Folly" is both complete in itself and convincing as a rather old-fashioned romantic comedy.

What: TheatreWorks' season opener, "Talley's Folly"

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (Second Stage), Castro and Mercy streets, Mountain View

When: Continues through Sunday, August 2

How much: Tickets are $25-$33.

Information: Call 903-6000. 

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