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By D. A. Blackburn
Over the last two seasons, the Williamston Theatre has proven time and again that good theater can come out of small towns. They’ve also shown that, with experience, a theater can improve the quality of its programming with each and every production. Williamston’s final offering of the 2007-2008 season, Lanford Wilson’s “Talley’s Folly,” opens on the heels of the company’s most ambitious offering to date, but true to form, the work sets a high benchmark for shows to come.
The work, notable for its 1980 Pulitzer Prize, is a tale of love against the odds of religious intolerance, economic depression and war, which unfolds in a single 97-minute act. It is set near the playwright’s home town of Lebanon, Missouri, on the Fourth of July. Sally Talley and Matt Friedman have returned to the dilapidated boat house, or folly, where they fell in love a year earlier, but disillusioned by the political climate of World War II America, and the fanatically religious views of her family, Sally is refusing Matt’s advances. The play unfolds in real-time, as the lovers rekindle their flame, and discover that a Lithuanian Jew and an American Protestant can have more in common than is evident at first glance.
Wilson’s script can seem, at times, far fetched, but it’s punctuated with bits of weighty material, and packed with enough humor to keep the audience engaged throughout the lone, long act.
Wayne David Parker and Kate Peckham, Matt and Sally, respectively, tackle the work with poise and professionalism, lending a true credibility to even the weakest points in Wilson’s drama. Parker makes a particularly strong showing for his exceptional gifts in dialect, as he creates a wealth of diverse and entertaining accents with ease.
While Williamston has done an excellent job in casting the show, it’s in the technical aspects of the production where the company succeeds the greatest, and pushes the bar the furthest. Scenic work by Bartley H. Bauer is a feast for the eyes. The Talley’s folly comes to life in rich tones of timber and lush vines, the quality of which mark a new high for the theater. Jeremy Winchester’s lighting is inventive and attractive, and the show’s sound design (not credited in the program) perfectly creates the ambiance of a Missouri river bank, with chirping crickets and barking dogs in an uncanny surround sound.
The cumulative effort is a wholly entertaining night of theater, which should push Williamston’s staff to even greater showings in seasons to come.
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam Rd., Williamston. Through Aug. 3. Tickets: $18-$24. For information: 517-655-7469 or http://www.williamstontheatre.org.