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Powerful Talley's Folly Offered by M&M Productions
Review of Talley's Folly, presented in the NY Metro area by M&M Productions, starring Francis Callahan and Cynthia Granville and directed by CD Macaulay
by Robert Liebowitz
Continuing its offerings as Westchester's "premiere mobile theatrical troupe," M&M Productions has been bringing free theatre to local libraries and other venues since 1995 in a venture that has expanded into surrounding counties in the tri-state area. Most recently the group has offered a production of Talley's Folly featuring Cynthia Granville and Francis Callahan, directed by CD Macaulay and seen this weekend in Eastchester.
At its essence, a play concerns the plight of a man or woman on a 'mission', on a quest for something or somebody. It is during this quest, of course, that tiny morsels of life lessons are picked up along the way--it is exactly why theatre has been an essential art form for 2500 years; it is the perfect mirror to society, constantly reminding us how to live our lives. The characters succeed or they fail; something becomes nothing, and visa-versa; in two hours or five hours, or 20 minutes we may or may not feel we've 'been' somewhere.
Talley's Folly is such a play; uneven, and at times bordering on grade-school cliche, and yet at other times poignant, profound, and very moving, with strong stretches of dialogue filled with insight and humor. In short, it needs a strong cast to put it over the top.
In the play, set in rural Missouri during the latter part of WWII, Matt Friedman, a 40ish Jewish accountant, has come to court, woo, seduce, and ultimately marry Sally Talley, a 31 year old would-be spinster, with whom Matt had a brief affair a year before. Exploring themes such as the horrors of war, anti-Semitism, the battle between the sexes, honor, and false pride, the play is particularly prescient in these troubled times.
In this production, which starred Judd Hirsch in the original successful Broadway run in 1979, the play has met its match, and then some--Francis Callahan and Cynthia Granville are first rate as the unlikely lovers. What is particularly impressive is that the actors are real-life husband and wife, and yet give no indication of this union at all during their 97 minute 'waltz', as Mr. Friedman calls it.
Much of the dialogue is done at a machine gun pace; it would be easy to dismiss or 'blank out' much of it, simply because of the volume involved. However, Mr. Callahan's expert portrayal of the sometimes-hapless-
Likewise for Ms. Granville; her Sally Talley (now there's a mouthful!) was fiery, firm, sultry, smart, ambitious, loyal, and ultimately loving--many of the qualities we've come to expect in any 21st century character/drama, and yet decades ahead of its time for 1944. Ms. Granville moved about the stage with the dexterity and grace of a gazelle, and hyperbole notwithstanding, embodied living breathing art--sometimes still life; sometimes poetry in motion. A sight to see, by every definition of the word.
The direction, by CD Macaulay, was unfortunately substandard, and not up to the task. One sometimes got the feeling the actors were double-parked, or racing to a fire. A play needs to breathe, even a little bit, and there were a few obvious moments where the directions that the actors received were going against the grain and pulse of Mr. Wilson's play. Fortunately, these moments were few and far between.
Talley's Folly represents M&M Productions' first foray into the deeper waters of an Equity Production--well done, and bravo! With Mr. Callahan and Ms. Granville doing their best Lunt/Fontanne imitation, we look forward to the next 'mission'.
Upcoming schedules for M&M Productions' presentations can be found at mmpaci.com. All performances are free.
Robert Liebowitz is presently Artistic Director of None Of The Above Theatre Company, a group he co-founded in 1982. A prolific playwright as well, he has written 18 plays; his first collection of works, "Awake & Aggravated", is available at NYC's Drama Book Store.