by Lanford Wilson
Directed  by Kate Alexander
Florida Studio Theatre’s Keating
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota
July 25 to Aug. 26, 2012

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

To the folly, a whimsical but decrepit Victorian boathouse surrounded by reeds, shortly after WW II, comes Matt Friedman (Dominic Comperatore) to woo Sally Talley (Maren Bush). That, Dominic Comperatore’s Matt assures us, is what we’ll see acted in this clearly theatrical “waltz“ and setting in 90+ minutes. It’s downhill from the manorhouse on the downstate Missouri estate of Sally’s prominent family, prejudiced WASPs who see him as a Communist, traitor, infidel. Actually, he’s a Jew, an immigrant citizen of confusing origins, a CPA working in St. Louis, 42 and never married. He and Sally, 31, a nurse’s aid to wounded vets at their local hospital, had the start of a romance, same place, a year earlier. Since she hasn‘t acknowledged his constant letters and desire for them to get together again, we’re not surprised at her immediate and harsh brush-off attempts. What’s behind them is a mystery that Matt must penetrate for his unremitting courtship to be successful. 

As house lights go down and dimmer ones prevail in the obviously symbolic folly, we follow Matt’s confessions of who he is and why he wants to marry Sally. He gets her to reveal the reasons she uses the folly to escape her family just as she avoids love and marriage. Does their growing physical closeness mirror a merging of their outlooks on everything from general economic prospects to their different backgrounds and even their very philosophies of life? Can such intense interaction last or will it dissipate--in more ways than one?

More than budgetary considerations explains the popularity of Lanford Wilson’s two-hander. Unveiling a touching story, it conveys well its atmosphere and time without being passe today. Affable-from-the-start Dominic Comperatore delivers Matt’s compelling dominant dialogue, bearing the slightest trace of foreign accent, with sustained vigor. Maren Bush accomplishes the difficult task of having Sally in a short time believably recede from a stubborn refusal to listen or to participate in Matt’s reasoning. Her eyes and such gestures as a slight way of leaning toward him or turning to hear him better convey emotions for which words aren’t supplied.  Kate Alexander has undoubtedly coached her to eschew melodrama for truly tearful revelations, just as this director has wisely allowed Comperatore to--as it were--“let it all out.“ Even when Matt borders on pushy or extreme, we can’t help liking him.

I remember back when, in the space of a few years, “Talley’s Folly“ played in every professional  and community theater here on the Suncoast, including FST. April Soroko’s set bests all of these, and her design of Sally’s flowered dress and Matt’s formal but a tad rumpled brown suit is as authentic as any.  Praise too goes to Robert Perry’s changing lighting.  Stage Manager Kayliane Burns and her assistant Kristin Kerr deserve notice for helping Matt meet the timing challenge the talented playwright set for him.

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