It would be hard to find a more pleasant way to spend a late spring evening than coming to Green Lake to watch Lanford Wilson’s romantic one act, Talley’s Folly. The set is gorgeous and the acting top-notched. The two-person piece successfully works its quiet magic.
Wilson’s play, winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize, takes place on a warm Lebanon, Missouri evening back in 1944. Mike Dooly is Matt Friedman, waiting on a river dock for Sally Talley to come down from her house on the hill so that he may court her. In a delightful opening monologue, he shares his worries over this endeavor directly with the audience. This is the third time I’ve seen Dooly on stage and I am greatly impressed with his versatility and skill. Here he is an awkward, Lithuanian Jewish tax accountant and I believed ever minute of it. Rebecca Olson assumes the role of Sally, and while a few of her early moments seemed a bit overwrought, she quickly settles into an artistically nuanced performance as the gentile girl that has captured Matt’s heart. We are in good hands with this talented duo and the warm-hearted play flows along as smoothly as the river the lovers stare upon.
The opening scenes have a good bit of the potential lovers humorously bantering, but the piece soon gains depth when Sally is able to have Matt share some of his harrowing past life. The horrors of early 20th century Europe vividly materialize in Dooly’s monologues. Sally is moved but also wary. Her family waiting for her, back up the hill, is not at all happy that she may be seeing a Jew. Though she has indeed lived enough of a life to become her own person, she is very aware of the censure she will suffer if she decides to accept Matt. As the play progresses we learn that she too has a sorrowful back-story that must be shared with Matt and us.
Wilson has Matt deliver some of the key thematic lines when he declares that we are all eggs, frightened of being broken, hanging on to our shells. That a delicious omelet might be the product of a broken egg or two doesn’t make the prospect any less frightening for this somewhat world weary middle age couple. Wilson’s notion that love might indeed blossom in this most unlikely coupling is the foundation on which the script rests. Director Shana Bestock and her exceptional cast deliver the message most capably.
Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse’s Talley’s Folly runs until May 31. For more information go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.