Talkin’ Broadway: Talley’s Folly

Originally published on Talkin’ Broadway.

Stephen Russell and Marianna Bassham

Is it possible to employ the word “folly” in the title of a play without making a pun? In the case of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly, the folly in question is both the foolishness of Sally Talley, who believes her “dark secret” has shut her out of the game of love, and in the slightly more archaic sense, the decaying, riverside gazebo erected by her ancestor that provides the setting for the play. But at least in director Adam Zahler’s production at the Lyric Stage, there’s another folly involved: the darkening of what should be, in the play’s own words, “a waltz.”

The play opens with Matt Friedman (Stephen Russell) addressing the audience directly, with the house lights up driving the point home. We are to see a love story, a dance, he tells us. Russell’s playful portrayal of Matt, teasing the audience and wielding the magic of stagecraft to create the perfect summer night, sets the perfect tone for a love story. As he leads us into the main section of the play, he’s significantly aided in this pursuit by Janie E. Howland’s picturesque set and John Cuff’s subtle, effective lights.

Matt has come to the Talley home in the summer of 1944 to pursue the hand of aging daughter Sally (Marianna Bassham). Their courtship has stalled, in part because Sally’s family will not accept Jewish Matt Friedman as a suitable mate, but in part because Sally is withholding a piece of herself from her beau.  Continue reading