Dominic Comperatore and Maren Bush in Florida Studio Theatre’s Talley’s Folly.
To the couple involved in any love story, theirs is a special and unique romance. But it takes a writer to tell their story in a way guaranteed to make it as unique and special to everyone else hearing it.
That’s what playwright Lanford Wilson was able to do with Talley’s Folly, a Pulitzer Prize winner from more than 30 years ago that continues to touch audiences today. It’s a small story, for the most part quietly told, as never-married Jewish accountant Matt Friedman tries to woo the reluctant woman of his dreams, Ozark spinster Sally Talley. His setting? A more or less abandoned boathouse on her family’s property, one summer evening in 1944. His tactic? To win her with his awkward, self-deprecating, but ardent relentlessness until she admits to her own well-guarded feelings for him.
Sally, feelingly played by Maren Bush in the current Florida Studio Theatre
production of Talley’s Folly
, has her reasons for being so wary. Not only is Matt (Dominic Comperatore), to her conservative and business-minded family, a sort of Communist infidel, she’s also afraid of letting her heart go because of something that happened to her years earlier. It’s only slowly, gently, that Matt, by telling something of his own sad personal story, is able to get her to listen to his pleas. Then, when her own wounds come to the surface, is there hope of these two damaged people finding happiness together?
This soft summer evening, the most important of their lives, is an intimate one, made even more so since Matt immediately addresses the audience directly once he steps onto the evocatively designed set (by April Soroko, who also designed the costumes: a pretty frock for Sally and a light summer suit that Matt somehow contrives to make look ill-fitting). He enlists us on his side, but, given Sally’s painful past, our sympathies are certainly engaged by her as well.
Kate Alexander’s sensitive direction ensures that in the tug of war playing back and forth between these two would-be lovers we are always rooting for their happiness. At times from where I sat in the theater, Comperatore occasionally seemed to be overplaying a little, his voice louder than it needed to be. But Wilson’s gift and the chemistry between the two actors make this a romance you’ll find rewarding.