|Rebecca Olson and Mike Dooly in Tally's Folly (Paul Bestock)|
Through May 31
Is Lanford Wilson’s 1980 play, Talley’s Folly still relevant? The answer, as demonstrated by Seattle Public Theater’s current production, is a resounding “Yes!”
While this is a love story and they hardly become irrelevant, the tension here is that a New York Jew is wooing a southern belle with a rampantly anti-North, anti-Semitic and anti-liberal family. These days, politics is certainly enough to break up couples and families!
Even as Wilson has his main character, Matt Friedman (Mike Dooly) start the entire production by breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience (“Once upon a time…”), the play maintains a realistic enough content that you forget that he was once audience-aware. And Dooly, as the force-of-nature Friedman, tirelessly pursues his object of affection.
It’s a bit hard to accept, at first, that Matt could be so taken by Sally Talley (Rebecca Olson) that he would wait years to finally win her. Sally is so prickly and irritated, and irritating, that at first the effort seems like Don Quixote’s swinging at windmills. (Perhaps director Shana Bestock might better have softened that characterization.)
But as time goes on, Sally gives more and more hints that there is a real attraction and a real reason for Matt to feel hopeful. Still, these are intellectual and emotionally defended people, and it seems like both are attracted to doing things the hard way.
This one-act (97 minutes straight through) exhausted me, but really in a good way, because the struggle between the two is so fierce and hard-fought. Ideas are batted around, terrible and dangerous pasts are revealed. Some details feel like they’re made-up stories, until maybe they’re not anymore.
The play won a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play. Acted on a unit-set (by Craig Wollam, that perfectly reflects the down-on-its-luck boat shed in Missouri), the 1944 setting reflects the United States on the brink of the revolutions that the end of World War II would bring. In fact, Matt and Sally’s relationship is probably an impossibility if that future were not before them.
And there is humor, practical, political, intellectual, argumentative humor. Matt uses his accountant’s eye for detail to poke holes in any defense Sally puts up. It’s a joy to watch them spar. It’s not really a spoiler to say that he succeeds. The joy is in the journey, not in not knowing the outcome.
Do make plans to see this charmer of a play that reminds us that we can still love people who disagree with us.
For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call (206) 524-1300.