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Talley’s Folly – Review

talley's folly

The curtain-less stage, set for Talley’s Folly (by Jeff Cowie) is impossible to ignore. The southern weathered boathouse littered with rusted and discarded objects begs for the arrival of Miss Havisham. The small apron of the Laura Pel’s stage is festooned in large cartoon-like flowers, setting the stage if you will for this realistic play that knows it’s a play.

Lanford Wilson’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize play begins with eliminating the fourth wall. Matt Friedman (Danny Burstein) walks through the house and onto the stage and announces how long the play will be and why he’s there. He repeats his opening speech (at a higher speed) for latecomers. For audience members who cling affectionately to the fourth wall, this is somewhat terrifying. But before we have time to rethink our choices, a halting and delicate story unfolds and we are immersed, enthralled and utterly smitten. We meet Sally Talley (Sarah Paulson) whom Matt has traveled to woo. Theirs is not an easy courtship. In fact at times it would seem that whatever courtship there is only exists in Matt’s mind. Sally is a lovely blonde woman from a wealthy family that is less than thrilled with the existence of the obviously Jewish and vaguely European Matt. That the play takes place during World War II is interesting but not all that relevant. The family’s attitude is timeless as is the story of Matt and Sally. To outline what occurs between them in the course of 90 minutes would deny potential audiences the real pleasure of this play.

Mr. Burstein who if truth be told, owns any role he plays, is Matt Friedman. True the role will always conjure its creation by Judd Hirsch’s (in 1979), but Mr. Burstein is not in anyone’s shadow. He is larger than his physical self yet not in anyway overblown. He plumbs the humor while swallowing the pain. Matt Friedman could easily become pitiable, but Burstein never allows that to occur. Ms. Paulson could easily become set dressing in his presence but under Michael Wilson’s direction they shine equally upon the stage. While we at times we become frustrated by Sally, we never once doubt her. The actors capture the realism and the poetry of Matt and Sally; we ache for them and we cheer for them.

The Roundabout Theatre’s Talley’s Folly opens on March 5th

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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Lemon Sky – Review

Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky has been revived by the Keen Company and is playing at Theatre Row.  This play is considered the most autobiographical of Mr. Wilson and was last revived in 1985.  The play, told in flashback and predominantly set in the late 1950s, is the story of a brief reunion between a father and son.  Directed by Jonathan Silverstein, this very lovely play falls a bit short of brilliant.  There are some beautifully directed and acted moments, but there is also a small collection of distractions.

Our narrator, Alan (Keith Nobbs) is brimming with charisma and poignancy (I found him much more in his element than I did in Lombardi.)  His narration, and at times the drama, is intentionally self-conscious, a device considered quite novel in 1970.  (Narration and self-consciousness is now mainstreamed into reality television.)  The role of Alan needs to be entirely captivating and ingratiating, and in Mr. Nobbs he most definitely is.  While Mr. Nobbs does indulge in a small amount of Ferris Bueller interpretation, I found this less distracting than I did illuminating (I had not realized how effeminate Ferris Bueller was.)  Alan slips gracefully in an out of the narrator role and insinuates himself into the household drama.  A lengthy bus trip has delivered Alan (from Nebraska to San Diego) to the home of his estranged father Doug (Kevin Kilner.)  Mr. Kilner’s interpretation of a, not very likable Doug, is simply wonderful.  It would have been an easy one-dimensional portrayal, but Mr. Kilner goes deep.  He gregariously welcomes his heretofore ignored teenage son into his new family.  His light and cautious wife Ronnie (Kellie Overbey) is an eager step-mother, quick with the party line and a cup of coffee.  The household is rounded out by Ronnie and Doug’s two sons (a fabulous Zachary Mackiewicz as Jack and the older Logan Riley Bruner as Jerry) and two foster daughters (Penny, brilliantly portrayed by Amie Tedesco, and Carol, portrayed by Alyssa May Gold.)

The characters, their interactions and dialogue are drawn so realistically.  While we suspect what’s coming at every turn, the discovery is not really the point.  The point is how people connect, or disconnect, and what stories they tell themselves along the way.

This production has enormous potential, but falls just a bit short.  When mounting a small ensemble production, it is imperative that the onstage talent is in balance.  This is simply not the case with this production.  Eldest child Mr. Bruner is a very self conscious child actor.  Had he been the only child, one would chalk it up to child blindness (for some reason, casting directors often can not discern talent in children, going for appearance only) but Mr. Bruner is paired with the excellent Zachary Mackiewicz.  Ms. Gold is awkward and ill at ease, playing the fragile, potentially fascinating Carol with an extreme heavy hand.  Adding to this distraction is the fact that Ms. Gold is simply not the right physical type for this role.  She is not done any favors with the costume padding and “bump-it” hairstyling device.  Carol’s costuming doesn’t hit the right note any more than the set does.  Doug works third shift in a factory, the mortgage is paid with the foster child allotment.  There is no way that their home would be furnished with such obvious 1950s items.  Furniture was expensive back then, and new furniture would not have been within reach for a working class family.

Distractions aside, this is a very good play and a fine production.  If the past is any indication of the future, it does not get produced often.  For this reason, I encourage you to see it.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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