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Talley's Folly

a Comedy
by Lanford Wilson

COMPANY : Actors Theatre of Atlanta [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Post Theater at the Lovett School
ID# 724

SHOWING : July 19, 2003 - August 24, 2003



The scene is the ornate, deserted Victorian boathouse on the Talley place in Lebanon, Missouri; the time 1944. Matt Friedman, an accountant from St. Louis, has arrived to plead his love to Sally Talley, the susceptible, but uncertain daughter of the family. Bookish, erudite, totally honest and delightfully funny, Matt refuses to accept Sally's rebuffs and her fears that her family would never approve of their marriage. With charm and persistance, Matt gradually overcomes Sally's defenses, telling his innermost secrets and, learning hers as well. Gradually he awakens Sally to the possibilities of a life together until, in the final, touching moments of the play, it is clear that they are two kindred spirits who have truly found each other they find a wholeness rare in human relationships.
Staring Larry Larson as Matt and Rhoda Griffis as Sally.
Directed by Jay Freer

Cast Jay Freer
Cast Rhoda Griffis
Sally Talley Rhoda Griffis
Matt Friedman Larry Larson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Nitpicking and What Really Matters
by Dedalus
Monday, August 25, 2003
There's a fine line between Nitpicking and correctly identifying distractions that lessen a production's impact. The irritating thing is, that line always moves, and its focus depends entirely on too many factors -- how well you know the play, how well you know the actors, how well the production deals with "details", how much the producers have (or want) to spend, and more and more and more.

I bring this up now, because Actors Theatre of Atlanta recently mounted a production of Landord Wilson's TALLEY'S FOLLY that was filled to the brim with bad choices, wrong decisions, misguided interpretations, and questionable designs. It was the sort of production cynics like me love tearing apart. But, I still found it moving, affecting, and effective.

So what do I do with all of these quibbles?

First, the set was all wrong. The boathouse which houses the action was decidedly lovely to look at and well-constructed. But the dialog describes it as a goofy "Folly," a boathouse gazebo/hybrid filled with geegaws and curlicues and useless adornment. What we got in this production was a solid-looking boathouse beside a standard-looking gazebo -- all too ordinary-looking. When Matt describes the abuse old "Whistler's" jigsaw took in the construction, it rings false because the only curves are a few adornments in the gazebo-half of the set.

And it was set too far back on the stage. The original NY Production's design had latticework down the front of the stage so that we really had the feeling we were "in the river." Here, there was a good three to five feet between the front of the set and the edge of the stage. It was as if there was a drought and the river we were in had receded from its banks. (And the "in the river" boat was much too solid -- it was if it was resting on dry land, not in the water.)

I was also initially disappointed with Larry Larson's performance as Matt. According to the script, the character was supposed to have a slight German accent which would be strongest when he was angry or upset. Mr. Larson chose to use a very thick, often impenetrable accent. This is a choice that could easily be defended, but he dropped it completely when he did the feigned Southern or Bogart impressions. This rang false. And, especially during his first monologue, I saw more of an actor doing "Schtick" rather than a character "setting the stage" for us.

I could go on about the too-subtle sound and lighting effects which lowered the romantic atmosphere too much, and the brass band which sounded more like a woodwind ensemble, but I think I've made my point.

Which brings me to the crux of this discussion -- exactly when did all this stuff not matter? I think it was when Rhoda Griffis came on and the two characters began their "waltz" of wooing and denial and avoidance. This is where Mr. Larson's performance took off and all the physical/technical details faded into an irritating background noise. These two actors were so real together, their interactions so spontaneous and affecting, that they reminded me that this is, in the final analysis, a play about two people in love against all odds, not a play about follies and geegaws and accents and brass bands. And in this fundamental element of the play, the actors and designers and director hit every note right.

-- Brad Rudy (

Wrong by chapeldog
I agree and disagree with mr. Rudy's review - anyone who talks about past productions and set designs when comparing plays usually is headin down a dangerous path in being critical of each paly for its own merits and flaws - no two shows are remotely like - otherwise it would be boring indeed to go to the theatre - it would be like watching the same movie over and over again. i love theatre because it is ephemeral and it changes from night to night and production to production.
None of the things Mr. Rudy mentions matter - except that the play worked. Accents, design, romance (the lighting for Talley's wasn't romantic?), sound - I saw the show and here's my take - the set was fine - not great, but if I'm looking at the set that much in a show, something's wrong ... it served the play well. The lighting was beautiful - looked like the scenic artist and the lighting designer were on different pages (set looked purple under some of the light), sound was OK - I don't take it from Mr. Wilson's stage direction that it was literally a "marching band" that Matt refers to - it was a band playing in the distance across the water - and what that band is made up of is not known and i took it to be an artistic choice. I though Mr. larson made very good choices about the accent. This was a show that reflected what i have come to expect of this young comapny - a good play presented by fantastic actors. I can go to other theatres in town and see beautifully constructed sets, perfect lighting, glorious lighting etc. and still never see a production this well exectuted.

Most of us rarely see good theatre in Atlanta - this was extremely well done and the critism by Mr. Rudy seems like splitting hairs.
Maybe Wrong Maybe Not by Dedalus
I'd like to thank ChapelDog for more or less underscoring what I said. Splitting Hairs can sometimes be fun, but, in the final analysis, it can be pointless if the show actually works.

That being said, I'd like to move the discussion forward with a rebuttal or two.

I agree it can be dangerous to compare aspects of different productions. But comparisons will happen. We cannot forget or ignore other experiences we have had. On the one hand, if a new production brings nothing new to the script, we are left with a "been there, seen that" feeling. On the other, if it brings too much, we are left feeling a bit disjointed. What I do think is valid, though, is comparing impacts and effects of a new mounting. If one production works and another doesn't, the reasons need to be expressed. In the case of "Talley's Folly," this is the third production of seen. Of the three, I thought the interplay between Matt and Sally worked the best in this one, but I also thought the design threatened to sabotage them too often. When the dialog describes a set that jars with what we see, that's a problem. When an accent makes dialog unintelligible, that's a problem. When we are promised moonlight and romance, but get sunlight and faces in shadow, that's a problem. Yes, the important thing of the show is the relationship. But, if the job of the actors is made difficult by the physical mounting, that's not hair-splitting, that's pointing out that it was "good but could have been so much better."
Further Clarification by chapeldog
I am so grateful to brad for making this such a positive posting - I too would like to make a few further points just to continue the discussion -

About comparing productions - every show I attend, I do my best to watch it as if I have never seen it before - much in the same way I try not to anticipate a moment in acting. Without that ability - one would usually like the first production one sees over others because it was the first experience of the play (unless it is very bad) - but look at our Atlanta audiences - we all have been at performances where the audience stands when work does not deserve a standing ovation. That's for another posting.

I too have seen three productions of Talley's Folly - the original in NY, one in DC, and the last one at Saint Louise Rep with Marshall Mason directing it again (with John Lee Beatty designing again too). There are stylistic differences between the three I have seen, but all were very good. The one this summer at Actors Theater was right there with the best I've seen and as Brad points out - the interplay - the relationship between Matt and Salley was excellent in the Actors Theater show this summer.

Set Design - I had no issue with the set - the designs I have seen in all three other productions varied widely - This set made some sense to me once I quit looking for a John Lee Beatty design. This man who built it (in the play) lived in Arkansas presumably most of his life - where would he pick up the extraordinarily fancy style that Brad is refering to? I listened to the description from Matt and looked at the set and I could see some of those things there - it didn't jar me or concern me. I found the set design to be fine - the one thing I truely appreciated about it was how it functioned for the actors in the show - it gave them places to go and things to do. Some of the other shows I've seen - the set was beautiful, but it didn't help the actors. The show this summer worked for me as a set and it made sense within the context of the play.

Matt's accent - I watched the play twice this summer and I never encountered the problem of not understanding Mr. Larson and I found his choices as far as accent and impersonations to be fine - I did have trouble hearing Rhoda Griffis a couple of times, but still understood the gist of what she said throughout. I have heard three different accents in three different productions, but they all made sense. The comment about his accent coming out when he is upset is actually directed to Salley in the script I have in hand - she has an Arkansas accent that Wilson says comes back strongest when she is upset.

Lighting - the script talks about moonlight in Matt's earlyu description - but Matt also says to Salley that it is "sundown, sun set, twilight" after the play has been going some 20 - 25 minutes - then the night time grows and changes with the passage of time - I thought the lighting was effective in conveying that aspect of the evening. Again - I saw it as consistant with the actual script passages.

I thought that Mr. Larson lacked some of the fun and energy I have seen in other Matts - but, his honesty and interplay with Rhoda Griffis more than made up for the lack of "comedy" this production missed occasionally.

My basic comment is that we both seemed to like the play when it was all said and done - I thought that the technical points Brad brings up are exactly as he himself describes them - splitting hairs. I don't feel any of what I watched came close to "sabbatoging the actors and their performance" - I thought there were many things that seemed much more consistant with the script than some of the previous mountings.

Regardless - a great evening and some wonderful performances.

Thanks Brad for posting such great opinions!
A Valentine for Theatre Lovers
by Ophelia98
Friday, August 22, 2003
I dare even the most hard-hearted cynic not to watch this play and not root for these lovable characters to live happily ever after. Larry Larson's Matt Friedman is a guy any girl would be crazy not to fall in love with. One could quibble with some minor lighting and sound effects, but why bother? This beautiful play is about falling in love and loving someone, warts and all. The performances are first rate and you will leave the theatre 97 minutes later with a huge smile on your face. Does it really get much better than that? [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Good Show!
by chapeldog
Monday, August 18, 2003
Saw this show and loved it - from what I saw of the crowd at the theatre Sunday, no one else knows how good this company is - you own it to yourself to see Talley's Folly. Rhoda Griffis and Larry Larson are fantastic. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Delightful Talley's Folly
by LeeAnne56
Friday, August 1, 2003
I highly recommend this show to anyone who loves professional theatre. It is a real treat to have a theatre company of this calibre in northwest Atlanta. That just proves you do not have to go downtown to enjoy professional live theatre.

These folks only run through August 24th. I urge you to see this show. I go to New York and London regularly to see theatre. This show is as good as anything I've seen in either of those cities. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Talley's Folly
by Smurfette
Friday, August 1, 2003
I have seen the shows this company has done over the past three years. I can't figure out why Atlanta has not discovered this theatre company yet. The shows are wonderful - there is a sense of detail that most theatres just don't get - even the Alliance.

This particular show is wonderful - Kathy Janich called it "exquisite" and she's right. It is a wonderful play and I can't believe the performances by Rhoda Griffis and Larry Larson. I rarely see actors work the way these two actors work together on stage. The detail and nuance is hard to descirbe.

This is a great play, and I hope they get the audience they deserve - I for one, am a fan and will see everything they produce.

I give this show five stars! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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