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Time Out Theater Review: "Talley's Folly"

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Lanford Wilson's celebrated play "Talley's Folly" is back on the New York boards, courtesy of The Roundabout Theatre Company. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following review.

When Lanford Wilson died two years ago, he left behind a large and varied body of work that spanned five decades and explored the struggles of those on the margins of American culture: junkies, drag queens, immigrants or nonconformist dreamers. We've only just begun the reappraisal of Wilson's legacy.

A good place to start is the Roundabout's solid revival of "Talley's Folly", a Pulitzer Prize winner from 1980. Deceptively simple but rich in emotional and historical resonance, this one-act play takes place on July, 4, 1944, in the small town of Lebanon, Missouri.

The setting is a dilapidated, abandoned boathouse where Matt Friedman, a Jewish immigrant, is having a clandestine meeting with Sally Talley, daughter of a local, well-to-do family. This is Matt's last-chance courtship of Sally, who stubbornly won't commit. Neither lover is young and both are fiercely protective of personal tragedies -- which, naturally, will be painfully revealed before final curtain.

Intensely personal and intimate, but evoking broader social themes, the play is as much about two unlikely lovers as it is about America during World War II: battered, but with a hopeful eye cast to postwar prosperity boom.

Matt, a product of the Jewish diaspora, and Sally, a small-town spinster burning to escape, are made for each other. And so are the boisterous Danny Burstein and the melancholy Sarah Paulson, who have terrific chemistry in Michael Wilson's graceful but muscular staging.

The production achieves the right blend of heightened whimsy and elegiac sadness that makes Talley’s Folly more than a romantic comedy.

The course of love doesn't run smooth in "Talley's Folly", but the marriage between artists and material here was made in heaven.

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