By GUY D’ASTOLFO
“Talley’s Folly” touches on some heavy themes that spring from life during wartime.
But at its heart it’s a love story, and that’s what attracted Mary Ruth Lynn to direct the production at the Youngstown Playhouse.
“Talley’s Folly,” which earned playwright Lanford Wilson a Pulitzer Prize in 1980, will open the season for the Griffith-Adler Actors Series, a collection of nonmainstream dramas staged in the theater’s intimate Moyer Room.
Set in Missouri during World War II, the play centers around an unlikely couple: Matt Friedman, a German Jew whose family was persecuted during World War I; and Sally Talley, daughter of a once-wealthy Missouri factory owner.
The roles are played by stage veteran Eric Kibler and Katie Seminara, making her Playhouse debut.
A little backstory: The couple had met a year ago and quickly fell in love, but remained apart. In the play, Matt has come to visit Sally to convince her to marry him. The two spend an evening in the boathouse where they reveal their pasts, including the horrors they’ve endured that shaped them into the people they have become.
“It is a love story of two unlikely people who, as the evening unfolds, show us that they are, after all, totally right for each other,” said Lynn, the director.
“Talley’s Folly” is a bit of a departure from the recent fare that Lynn has been directing at the Playhouse.
“I have done quite a few hard-edged pieces over the last few years and thought it might be time to do something a bit softer,” she said. “I read [‘Talley’s Folly’] some years ago, and it stayed with me. The language is lyrical, and the characters are absolutely charming. I also knew it would be a challenge to find the right touch and chemistry to make it all work.”
Despite its 1940s setting, Lynn said the play remains as timeless as love.
It also deals with how people react to war and economic problems, which are also not far from many people’s minds.
“During World War II, ethnicity was looked upon with suspicion,” said Lynn. “Parents told their children to marry their own kind. Although ‘Talley’s Folly’ doesn’t delve into this with great detail, it underlies the story in terms of how Sally’s family views Matt and how Matt’s family was treated in Europe.”
Lynn said the play is simply written and simply staged, but touching, funny and wise.
“It will rekindle one’s belief that there is someone for every- one if we are open to finding that person,” she said.