Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Michael Wilson
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY
(Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre Website)
Danny Burstein and Sarah Paulson
Set Design: Jeff Cowie
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Rui Rita
Original Music & Sound Design: Mark Bennett
Hair & Makeup Design: Mark Adam Rampmeyer
Dialect Coach: Kate Wilson
Production Stage Manager: Lori Lundquist
Press: Polk & Co.
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
Talley’s Folly General Manager: Nicholas J. Caccavo
Production Management: Aurora Productions
General Manager: Sydney Beers
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Adams Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 8, 2013
Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly is one of the most gripping and poignant dramas of the season. Danny Burstein, as Matt Friedman, a dapper St. Louis accountant, with a neat, thick beard and well-woven suit, arrives on the scene early on. He presents a monologue, that fully endears him to the audience, confiding that he’s about to show us a love story, a two-step waltz, so to speak, and a valentine, so to speak again. In fact, he repeats much of the monologue, in rapid speed, “for the latecomers”. The set is a seasoned, disheveled boat house in Lebanon, Missouri (the playwright’s home town) in July, 1944. His thick Jewish accent is quite New Yorkese, although Matt’s heritage, revealed later on, is internationally eclectic. Jeff Cowie’s boathouse is filled with old beams, broken nets, a center floor stairway, that seemed treacherous from the start, hundreds of old objects and containers hanging from the rafters, and giant pink wild roses and vines painted about the scenic frame. Matt is waiting for Sally Talley (Sarah Paulson), whose family has owned this property for ages. This is Methodist country, and, for the Talleys, Matt is considered a Northern and probable communist or crook.
In this ninety seven minute, one-act play (Matt, a numbers cruncher, checks his pocket watch before and after the drama unfolds), Matt and Sally have had an elusive one-year romance, and this is a quasi-reunion. Sally works as a nurse’s aide at the local hospital, giving comfort and false hope to the mortally wounded. Sally is determined to remain single into old age (she’s now thirty one), but her tight facial gestures exude longing and despair. She seems terrified of vulnerability, and she wards off Matt’s hyperventilating marriage proposal by literally pushing him toward the door. There are stark contrasts in her opposition, as she tends to his head wound, from falling debris, but later bites his hand, during a verbal struggle. Sally has a secret, and Matt’s not leaving until Sally unleashes a catharsis, so they can dash off together to St. Louis for eternal bliss. He’s confused about Sally’s over thirty single status, and Sally is confused, as well, about Matt’s past love life, as he’s over forty. It was 1944, and young couples took marital vows before the men left in uniform. Soon Sally turns the tables and demands that Matt explain his history, and a wrenching family war saga ensues. As it turns out, by sheer coincidence, Sally and Matt each craved a unique understanding, before donning a wedding ring, and we witness fate finding its target, the cupid that Matt needed to make his valentine dream a reality.
Sarah Paulson, as Sally, was the genteel, buttoned up, small town, Midwestern lady, in a pretty yellow dress. Sally had obviously changed from her nursing uniform to meet Matt, and that effort did not go un-noticed. Ms. Paulson exuded subtle torment and not so subtle desire, finally breaking into a smile, temporarily, as she told her tale of woe, that had a thread of a silver lining. Although she seemed fragile at times, she rescued Mr. Burstein from a fall on found ice skates, as he tried quite hard, on the broken boathouse floor, to fall into her lap. Danny Burstein, as Matt, was a treasure, adroitly entertaining, astoundingly nimble on the treacherous stage, brimming with energy and enthusiasm, as he courted his heart’s desire, witty and self-deprecating, as the reclusive accountant from a dusty city desk, and warmly embracing of his relentless ardor. Michael Wilson directed for textured, nuanced expressiveness and compassion, as well as intermittent comedy, such as Matt’s definition of the south (everywhere except New York and some outlying areas of Boston). It’s the way Mr. Burstein delivers one-liners that grabs the audience’s reaction.
Mr. Cowie’s set is too cluttered and bursting at the seams, with the flowered ornamentations seeming as large as the characters. David C. Woolard’s costumes, in contrast, had simple lines, with Sally’s yellow dress and matching handbag ingénue and very 1940’s. Rui Rita’s elegant lighting added sunlight to a wheat blown window view, followed by a purple evening glow and full moon. Kudos to Lanford Wilson, and kudos to Mr. Burstein and Ms. Paulson.