“Talley’s Folly,” Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winner — now in a pitch-perfect production at Briarcliff’s Hudson Stage through May 12 — is achingly beautiful to watch.
There is Matt Friedman, a Jewish accountant from St. Louis, the ultimate outsider here in Missouri in 1944, who has done his best to lose his European accent. But the accent lingers.
He arrives here in Lebanon, Mo., to court Sally Talley, the daughter of a prominent family whose marriage prospects have dimmed considerably. She does her best to put a brave face on things — for the wounded war vets she tends to in the hospital in Springfield — but at home, she is the black sheep, the family’s disappointment. The sadness lingers.
Sally shows no interest in Matt, wants him off the Talley property, but Matt doesn’t take no for an answer.
Their story plays out in the two-person play’s third character, a down-on-its-luck boathouse that is showing its age and the family’s neglect. Once a monument to a Talley uncle’s frivolity, his folly, the boathouse is run-down, largely abandoned, as the river rolls by.
These are two lonely people in a lonely old place.
There is poetry in Wilson’s prose — and in the performances by Margot White and Danton Stone, directed by Dan Foster.
White has a history with the play, having appeared opposite Richard Schiff (“The West Wing”) in an acclaimed production at Princeton’s McCarter Theater.
She finds moments — flashes of moments, really — where Sally drops her resolve to reveal emotion in a shy smile, a glint in her eye, a color change on her expressive face.
It’s not much for Matt to work with, but Stone uses those moments as fuel, to push, prod and needle his way into Sally’s heart.
In our modern age, Sally’s family would have a restraining order, power being power and no meaning no. Matt’s considerable charms — despite the best of intentions — would be kept at bay.
Stone, a 20-year veteran of Circle Rep (where he appeared in several Wilson plays), finds the playwright’s poetry and pace to his liking. He layers his performance with a remarkable mix of drive, desperation and puzzlement, touched with a tinge of melancholy.
Jason Simms’ set, while appropriately cluttered and run-down, has two significant drawbacks: downstage posts that block the view of upstage action for those along the aisles. If you arrive early, find a seat in the center for the best view. Andrew Gmoser’s lighting plot — while set in a moonlit boathouse — left the actors in too much shadow at times.
Leslie Bernstein’s costumes were spot on, and William Neal’s sound design — including a simple but nifty dog sound effect — added to the illusion.
“Talley’s Folly” is, as advertised: a no-holds-barred romance, an intermissionless 97 minutes, a valentine to the idea that there is someone for everyone.
A lovely thought, that.
‘Talley’s Folly,’ Hudson Stage Co. production at Woodward Hall Theater, 235 Elm Road, Briarcliff Manor. 8 p.m. May 4, 5, 11 and 12, and at 3 p.m. May 6 and 12. $35, $30 for students and seniors. Group rates available. Call Smartix at 877-238-5596. Details: 914-271-2811 or the Hudson Stage website. http://www.hudsonstage.com
Photo by Rana Faure: Danton Stone is Matt Friedman and Margot White is Sally Talley in Hudson Stage’s production of Lanford Wilson’s “Talley’s Folly,” at the Woodward Hall Theater at Pace University in Briarcliff Manor through May 12.