Talley's Folly

Also see Ann's review of The Morini Strad

Andrew Polk and Julie Fitzpatrick
Talley's Folly, Lanford Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning play, is an intimate, touching and humorous piece and a perfect play for the O'Reilly Theater. The set that has been built per Michael Schweikardt's design is detailed and realistic, depicting a 1944 boathouse/gazebo and dock, complete with bobbing rowboat, that have seen better days. If a set could be described as "full-bodied" it would be this one, as it fits snug and compact, but not crowded, on the O'Reilly's thrust stage. This setting, along with the fourth-wall-breaking introduction by Matt, one of the play's two characters, draws the audience in like a friendly embrace. It's clear from the start that, serene though this setting is, there's a rocky road to be traveled over the next 97 minutes.

Matt Friedman (Andrew Polk) is a talkative German-Jewish accountant, and he's in love. He has driven from St. Louis to this farm in Missouri to meet with Sally Talley. He's not welcome here, not by Sally's family and, particularly, not by Sally, but that doesn't stop him. There seem to be numerous reasons for the Talleys' resistance, involving age, religion, personality—and something else. After meeting the previous summer, Matt has been courting Sally by mail, even though his daily letters have gone unanswered. His persistence reaches new heights at this meeting, even though Sally is agitated and almost hostile to him. But we can tell she cares for him, and by about the 95th minute, we find out what is holding her back from choosing to leave a town where she's not happy and taking perhaps her only chance at love and marriage.

As Matt, Polk really grows on you, which is what he should do. Matt's a bit of what would now be called a nerd. He's a little too outspoken, and his tenacity and chattiness are irritating. But his desire for Sally is palpable and that is what drives him to continue battling with Sally until he learns what she is hiding. As an actor, Fitzpatrick is Polk's match. It's clear by her protests that Sally wants to go with Matt, but she feels she cannot. It nearly tears her apart to be taken to the point where she reveals the burden she has been carrying, and through Fitzpatrick's raw performance, we can feel that weight. The audience quietly roots for the couple's success.

Talley's Folly takes place on the fourth of July; it may not seem to be a logical holiday season play. But what is more fitting for this time of year than to witness true love and to leave the theatre feeling good? Set aside your shopping and decorating for a mere 97 minutes for a cozy appreciation of the work of one of America's great playwrights.

Talley's Folly continues at the O'Reilly Theater for Pittsburgh Public Theater through December 12. For performance and ticket information, call 412-316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org.

See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.

-- Ann Miner

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