AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Lanford Wilson
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Joy Carlin
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

To have a chance at happiness, two mismatched people must take risks and let go of their fears.

That's the challenge in Lanford Wilson's 1980 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Talley's Folly," presented by Aurora Theatre Company.

One of the two, Matt Friedman (Rolf Saxon), a 42-year-old, European-born Jewish accountant, takes the first risk by driving 300 miles from St. Louis to the small town of Lebanon, Mo., to woo the gentile Sally Talley (Lauren English), a 31-year-old nurse's aide he had met the previous summer.

They meet in a decrepit boathouse near the Talley family farm in the early evening of July 4, 1944, during World War II.

Matt appears first, telling the audience in an extended monologue that this is a waltz. When Sally arrives from work, their encounter is prickly. She rebuffs his efforts to win her over and tells him to leave. Yet when he starts to go, one or the other finds a reason to continue their conversation.

Eventually they reveal what lies behind their fears. And it's more than just the surface differences between them and the fact that Sally's family doesn't think he's suitable for her.

This production takes place in Aurora's second space, Harry's Upstage. This intimate setting works well for the one-act, 97-minute, two-person play, especially with Jon Tracy's rundown boathouse set and ambient lighting, aided by Chris Houston's sound design.

The play's title comes from the boathouse, which was built by Sally's grandfather to resemble a Victorian gazebo. A folly is defined as a decorative structure that looks as if it has some grander purpose.

For the most part, director Joy Carlin paces the show well, but there's not enough chemistry between the actors. Saxon's performance as Matt can seem repetitious, a problem mainly with the script but partially with the actor. The role of Sally is more challenging because she has fewer lines, requiring the actor to convey reactions with body language and facial expressions. English does well with both.

"Talley's Folly" is part of a trilogy that includes "Talley & Son," set in the farmhouse on the same day, and "Fifth of July," set at the farm 33 years later. Aurora will present staged readings of "Talley & Son" and will soon open "Fifth of July."

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