Love is never ‘Folly’ in PPC play

By Larissa Gula

“Talley’s Folly”

Now–Dec. 12

O’Reilly… “Talley’s Folly”

Now–Dec. 12

O’Reilly Theater

$15.75 through Pitt Arts


Times might change, powers might shift, but as the play “Talley’s Folly” demonstrates, romance never falls out of fashion.

Set during World War II, “Talley’s Folly” is a romantic comedy that chronicles the story of two misfits, Sally Talley and Matt Friedman, who meet in a Victorian boathouse in Missouri in 1944. Although the river is far from any battlefields, both Matt and Sally must overcome their own differences before they can consider being together.

Director Pamela Berlin has worked with the Pittsburgh Public Theater four times in the past. As a fan of playwright Lanford Wilson, she was interested in directing “Talley’s Folly” from the beginning.

“This play is a wonderful character study,” Berlin said. “It’s a two-character play with two people who on the surface seem so different. It’s a clash of cultures, and yet they are drawn to each other. But there are huge obstacles keeping them apart, and that’s what the play is about. And it’s not plot-driven, it’s relationship-driven.”

Berlin believes the play offers a singularly compelling frame. “The setting is wonderful,” she said of the boathouse. “You feel as if you’re right there. And it takes place at once. It takes place in real time in one scene.”

Julie Fitzpatrick, the actress who plays Sally Talley, said the humor in the show is one of its strongest points. “The playwright is silly at times and incredibly intelligent,” she said. “The writing is just great. The banter between these two characters really draws me in. It is called a romantic comedy, and it has a tremendous amount of romance, but it’s also really a grounded play. These two people try to find their way to each other, and they go through a heck of a lot. It has a large-scale experience between the people.”

Fitzpatrick’s character is “complicated” and makes for a challenging role.

“Sally is — like we all are — a huge bag of contradictions,” Fitzpatrick said. “There is love there, but there is a huge obstacle. My challenge is to honor the love so I don’t constantly play an obstacle. That’s not engaging. I have to find the ‘yes’ in Sally, since there are no many ‘no’s throughout the show. I find her humor and rhythms. And I dare to take the time the playwright took to let the story unfold. You trust the unfolding process.”

Each person involved with the show has worked hard to produce it. Berlin began researching the play months in advance, hoping this foresight would help her adequately manage the entire production.

“I have to familiarize myself with the play, what it’s about, who the characters are, and I have to cast the characters well,” Berlin said. “The success of the play hinges on the actors. Then I work with a set designer and costume designer and lighting designer.”

Since rehearsals began, the technical crew, the director and actor Andrew Polk, who plays Matt Friedman, have done a “tremendous” job in Fitzpatrick’s eyes. “Pam is bringing out the story in a unique way,” Fitzpatrick added. “I feel so lucky with this team I have.”

Bringing the show to audiences is the exciting and rewarding part of the job for both Berlin and Fitzpatrick. And even if the setting isn’t contemporary, the story might as well be in their eyes.

“It’s specific to a time and place, and yet it resonates tremendously with the here and now,” Fitzpatrick said.