Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Kyle Fabel
Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Lowell) Why in the 21st century do we feel compelled to make all our special private moments so public, especially when it comes to marriage proposals? These days, a proposal is not Facebook official unless you enlist your family, Joe Biden, and the Michigan State marching band to take part in a carefully choreographed proposal that you can upload to YouTube.
In truth, a love affair is a messy negotiation, with false starts, impasses, stalemates, and breakthroughs. To see such negotiations in all their confusing glory, theatergoers would be wise to take in Talley’s Folly, playing at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Not so much a play as an extended scene, this two-person play is a sweet glimpse into a make-or-break moment for an unlikely couple during one memorable sunset. Benim Foster (Matt Friedman), a Jewish immigrant accountant from St. Louis, ventures deep into rural America to try to rekindle a romance with Salley Talley (Kathleen Wise), a nurse caring for wounded soldiers returning from the frontlines of WWII. The two must hash out their fears for the future and reveal the wounds from the past if there is going to be a happy ending.
What this play lacks in plot it makes up for in winsomeness. From the beginning, when Benim breaks the fourth wall to invite us into this lovely scene, we feel like welcome guests bestowing our blessing on the couple. Randall Parsons’ set is lovingly constructed to seem like the perfect place for a nighttime rendezvous between lovers, with overgrown vines blooming and pushing out the old boards of a boathouse. Director Kyle Fabel helps steer his actors to stay within the script’s confines to create a tightly-constructed romance without an ounce of wasted energy. It may not be the greatest love affair of all time, but it’s certainly a memorable one.
Hmm…a well-choreographed night of romance in a public venue. I take back what I said earlier. Maybe there’s something different about watching a romance unfold before your eyes rather than unfold before your pixels.