Sunday, March 10, 2013

Talley’s Folly (Roundabout Theatre Company)

By Harry Forbes

Lanford Wilson’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner couldn’t get a finer revival than Michael Wilson’s first-rate production, featuring as it does such nuanced staging and impeccable work by Sarah Paulson and the ever versatile Danny Burstein as, respectively, Sally Talley, a Protestant upper middle class nurses aide, and Matt Friedman, the Jewish immigrant accountant with whom she had had a week-long romance the year before, and has now returned to Lebanon, Mo., circa 1944, determined to woo her.

The reasons the initial “affair,” as Matt describes it to Sally’s stated discomfort, didn’t click the first time around come out over the course of the evening, with surprising and poignant revelations on both sides. Class and religious differences are obvious obstacles, but we see that these two lonely, damaged souls share a bond that transcends all.

The play is only 97 minutes, as Matt informs the audience in the breaking-the-fourth-wall opening moments, and the denouement is heartwarming, but I must confess that despite the play’s prize-winning track record, I found stretches of it were inordinately talky, and keenly felt the limitations of this being a two-hander. Still, if Wilson’s setup seems more than a little contrived, his banter for Sally and Matt was constructed with skill.

Jeff Cowie’s spacious boathouse setting which its gazebo like structure (the “folly” of the title) provides much visual pleasure, and David Woolard’s period costumes and Rui Rita’s moonlit lighting scheme are lovely.

(Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 West 46th Street); or (212) 719-1300; through May 5)
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