By ERIC McCREA
Matt Friedman has only 97 minutes to convince the love of his life to marry him. A daunting task, considering she’s not very happy with him at the moment.
That’s the premise of Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Talley’s Folly,” the Youngstown Playhouse’s latest installment in their intimate Moyer Room space.
The story, which at times feels like more of a treat for the actors than the audience, is set in the Talley family boathouse, small town Missouri, on a warm July night. Eric Kibler’s role of Matt pulls the audience in from the start, explaining his agenda for the evening and how delicately it must be carried out.
When Katie Seminara, as Sally Talley (yes, Sally Talley) enters, it is quickly understood how difficult his goal will be to achieve. Sally comes from a rather conservative Southern family that doesn’t approve of her being courted by a Jewish immigrant, even though they’re eager to marry her off and she’s eager to leave them.
Matt will not shy away, however, even after being threatened at the point of a shotgun. Despite Sally’s pleas to be left alone, Matt persists. Throughout the show, stories are shared between Matt and Sally, revealing the trials they have faced in their pasts and why they’re such a perfect match.
Kibler plays Matt with an adept nuance, switching through accents perfectly, without sounding overcooked. Although the relationship is clearly a May-December romance, Kibler’s youthfulness and vitality make it easy to root for him.
Seminara plays Sally as tough, yet delicate, not easily swayed by Matt’s jokes or cheesy compliments. A college-educated liberal in the South easily could be seen as a fish-out-of-water role, but Seminara feels right at home. Her subtle accent fits perfectly.
One of the most striking aspects of this show is Jim Lybarger’s set. His dilapidated boathouse is impressive, down to the last detail. His lighting design adds to the scenery, giving a believable night feel. Johnny Pecano’s sound design transports the audience to a Southern river bank, without being a distraction.
The show is not without its lowpoints, however, but most of them are with the script. Aside from a few stumbles with lines, the actors performed well, but the story is slow moving and lacks excitement. The climax is a bit forced and rather sudden, leaving little time for any resolution.
Director Mary Ruth Lynn’s love for the show shines through, making the play a worthwhile watch if you’re in the mood for a low-key evening (or afternoon).