Scott Leibowitz as Matt, Kathy Becker as SallyPhotos: David Nobles
Kathy Becker (Sally) and Scott Leibowitz (Matt) on Ken Frazier’s set for Lanford Wilson’s “Talley’s Folly"
To most of us, the word “folly” means
something foolish or silly. It also can refer to
an extravagantly decorated building or other
architectural element. A dilapidated
Victorian boathouse is the one playwright
Lanford Wilson used for “Talley's Folly”
(1979), the romantic comedy that cemented
his early career with a 1980 Pulitzer Prize.
Director Jim Mammarella has cast two
versatile, talented actors and deftly led them
through a smooth, touchingly funny version
of the play, which is now on stage at the
Sheldon Vexler Theatre.
The setting is the Talley family's elaborate
but very rundown boathouse – it looks
like a gazebo – in Lebanon, Missouri, on
July 4, 1944. Matt Friedman (Scott
Leibowitz), a 42 year-old Jewish accountant,
has arrived in hopes of proposing to Sally
Talley. He had a week-long fling with her last summer, but has not seen her since. Sally (Kathy Becker) is a 31 year-old nurses's aide who is bright but deeply insecure. She pretends to be surprised at Matt's visit, but we soon learn that she was expecting him. Both of them have conflicts and carry life-changing secrets, but as the one-act play progresses, these are addressed and love eventually wins out.
angled planking, overgrown foliage and rusty implements is so richly detailed and well-constructed that it deserves credit as a third character.
Mr. Leibowitz is completely believable in a role that ranges from disarmingly comic – including a strange sort of pratfall – to revealing his anguish as a child fleeing Nazis in Europe. Ms. Becker's portrayal complements his very well, as she confidently moves from feisty and suspicious to open, to emotionally drained once she has exposed her own painful secret.
As we watch them rekindle their love, it is easy to care about this rather unlikely pair and to root for the success of their romance. After all, it's February, the month of valentines....
“Talley's Folly” runs through March 1 in the Sheldon Vexler Theatre at the Jewish Community Center. Call 302-6835.
The Vex/‘Talley’s Folly’
Revealing secrets, opening hearts
Wilson's ingenious dialogue is at its best as gregarious Matt begins a witty prologue in which he breaks the fourth wall. He announces that all will be finished within 97 minutes, then proceeds to call for lighting or sound effects in-between jokes and rapid-fire chatter. The piece brims with clever examples of wordplay: “It is hard to use your peripheral vision when you are being led by the nose,” he declares in reference to Sally's strict Protestant upbringing. Or Sally's wry put-down during a later argument, “You do not have the perception God gave lettuce.”
Perhaps just for fun, Wilson sometimes used “inside” references that would not register with all audience members. For example, there is a line used twice that alludes to sadness, “una furtiva lagrima” (a furtive tear). Non-opera lovers are unlikely to recognize the famous tenor aria of that name from Donizetti's “L'elisir d'amore.”
At one point, Matt is examining the boathouse's wooden gingerbread decoration, commenting that the builder must have “broken a lot of jigsaw blades” to create it. That may not be so for set, lighting and prop master Ken Frazier and his crew of volunteers, but the ancient-appearing boathouse with its