Friday, May 4, 2018

Talley’s Folly at Olympia Little Theatre

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 3, 2018
from left, Jeremy Holien and Silva Goetz, photo by Jim Patrick
Talley’s Folly is a sweet romance with an unlikely couple, the daughter of a wealthy garment factory owner in Missouri and a Jewish immigrant from the East Coast. This two-person, Pulitzer Prize-winning play takes place during World War II in one act (97-minutes long with no intermission) and in a single setting, a boathouse on a river not far from St. Louis.
Matt (Jeremy Holien) and Sally (Silva Goetz) had an affair a year ago that did not end well — he calls it an affair; she denies it was any such thing — and now he has returned to try and win her back. Like so many love stories, it starts off as an apparent comedy in which the lovers are at each other’s throats, gradually evolves into a serious drama, and of course, ends with a kiss.
They meet in secret at the boathouse down the hill from her family home.
Before going any further, I need to say something about the boathouse. Constructed by Chester Derry, Evan Froyland, Mike Gurling and Paul Malmberg (no set designer credited), it is a boathouse built to look like a gazebo. It is a beautiful set, far too beautiful to ring true. If nothing else, it should be more rustic with wood flooring instead of the white sheet board that didn’t exist in 1944. The use of a green tarp for water was ingenious and looks very much like a river thanks to lighting by Jacob Viramontes.
The play opens with Holien in character as Matt breaking the hell out of the fourth wall by walking into the space from the lobby onto the water where he stays to tell the audience what is about to happen, including how long the play is going to be and that it will be presented as a waltz in three-four time. And then in a truly funny comic bit, albeit stolen from The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), he repeats everything in fast motion for the benefit of people who came in late. 
Giving credit where credit is due, a play that is nothing but dialogue between two characters, with no action and no set changes (think My Dinner With Andre), is a huge challenge for the actors and the director (Jim Patrick), and all three rise to the challenge. Goetz plays Sally as feisty, sweet and loveable despite being angry throughout much of the play. She excels at the small gestures that create character. One gets the impression there’s much more to her than just the angry young woman frustrated with this man who has come back into her life. And when she finally lets her frustrations and anger explode, it is deeply affecting. Holien plays Matt as an intellectual who uses humor as a weapon. He displays talent for mimicry as he imitates the voices of other people in Sally’s life. His mannerisms are, well, a bit overly mannered.
The end of the play, after about 90 minutes of verbal war, is taut, heart-wrenching and ultimately sweet. And then Matt breaks the fourth wall for just a moment to tell the audience goodbye. These moments at the beginning and end when Matt talks to the audience are totally unnecessary. Pulitzer Prize or not, Lanford Wilson’s script would be better if he had cut those bits. 
Talley’s Folly, 7:25 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, through May 13, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia, $11-$15, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., 360.786.9484,

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