Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Talley's Folly by Lanford Wilson (1980)

Summary:  The play opens with Matt directly addressing the audience, making comments about the romantic set and telling the audience that the play will be over in ninety-seven minutes.  He also states that he is going to need all the help he can get in the conversation that follows.  When Sally enters, it becomes clear that they had a hot, sexy affair the previous summer and he is back to profess his love and claim her as his wife.  Throughout the conversation, Sally resists, saying that they don't really know anything about each other and are probably too old to be getting married anyway (the play is set in 1944 and Matt is in his 40s). 
In response, a very guarded Matt reveals details about his past--involving a Lithuanian childhood and detainment by French and German officials in the early 1900s (this segment of the play is very important...and also very confusing).  Ultimately, Sally agrees to leave her family in Mississippi and marry Jewish Matt--a decision that will certainly not please her family.
Thoughts:  The first four pages of this story have a very charming, very Our Town-like appeal.  Matt seems likable, and is highly concerned with winning the emotional support and favor of the audience.  However, once Sally shows up, the charm evaporates.  The two spend the first half of the play bickering.  When Matt is finally forced to reveal something about his personal background, his narrative is purposely stilted by how he chooses to tell the story (in vague fairytale tones).  Though this play attempts to make statements about religious persecution and family pressure in relationships, I never felt myself pulling for Sally and Matt.
After Sally appears, a rigid fourth wall is erected and is only broken by the last line of the play:  "And so, all's well that ends... (Takes out his watch, shows time to Sally, then to audience)...right on the button.  Good night.  (They embrace)."

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