A Review

Unlikely Lovers

By R. J. Donovan

Lanford Wilson's "Talley's Folly," playing at Lyric Stage through April 22, is the story of two souls reaching for a future together.  It's also about the secrets we hold and the courage it takes to share ourselves with others. The production is directed by Adam Zahler.

The two-character, one-act piece begins on a whimsical note when Stephen Russell, as Matt Friedman, enters to speak directly to the audience while the house lights are still up.  With the set harshly lit by work lights, he informs us that over the next 97 minutes we'll be seeing the waltz of two people in love.

He's charming and gentle as he sets the scene. The time is 1944 and the place in the ramshackle boat house of the Talley family. He will be pursuing the very guarded Sally Talley (Marianna Basham), who, at 31, is the disgraced, spinster of a wealthy, small town family in Lebanon, Missouri. Matt is a Jewish accountant, 12 years her senior, living in St. Louis. They had a brief thing the summer before and he's returned to propose marriage.

As his explanation concludes, the houselights dim, the stage lights glow and the story begins, played out in real time. 

And just as promised, 97 minutes later it's come to its conclusion. However, what happens in the middle is more squirming struggle than dreamy waltz.

The story only starts to gel when Matt reveals some sensitive aspects of his own life to Sally. And although Matt and Sally do peel back the layers and slowly expose who they really are, the two never come across as a convincing couple.

A lot of Wilson's imagery is quite poignant, and individual elements of the production have their moments, but somehow the sum is not a satisfying total of the collected parts.

"Talley's Folly" is at Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, through April 22. For information, call 617-585-5678.

-- OnStage Boston


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