Two independent, middle-aged people rendezvous one night at a boathouse and consider the possibilities of a life together.
In Lanford Wilson’s story, Matt Friedman and Sally Talley aren’t exactly lonely, but neither has ever met anyone who “got” them — until now.
Bridge Nouveau Theatre will open “Talley’s Folly,” Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, on Thursday, July 7, at The Guru in the Circa 1857 complex.
This will the second production for the company, which matches small plays to appropriate venues. Last summer’s “Red,” about the abstract painter Mark Rothko, was staged at Baton Rouge Gallery.
The Guru was chosen for Wilson’s World War II story because its decor of antiques gives it a sense of history.
“We chose the space first, then we started thinking about which play we wanted to perform here,” says director Alicia Hanley. “And we’ve partnered with Elevator Projects, who is seeking donations of photographs and love letters from World War II. They won’t be using people’s original photos and letters but making copies, then they’ll make a wall of these things in The Guru.”
The love letters set an appropriate stage as the 60 audience members watches Matt, played by Greg Leute, and Sally, played by Michele Guidry, dance through a one-night courtship. Neither of them has been married, and Sally especially values her independence as a single woman with a career.
“She is a nurse, she’s 31, and she supports herself, and this is unusual during World War II, when most women her age are married and have children,” Guidry says. “She comes from an Irish family that runs a dry cleaning business. They are conservative, and she has liberal views, and when she goes to this dance, she meets this man who gets her.”
The man is 42-year-old Matt Friedman, a Lithuanian Jew who first met Sally while vacationing in Lebanon, Missouri, the year before. He shares her liberal views and ideas about independence, and he can’t stop thinking about her.
He’s sent her a letter every day since their first summer meeting, and though she’s answered only one, he tells her he’s returning to Lebanon to meet her at the boathouse.
So, they spend the night talking about the first time they met, their families and their pasts. Then the night ends with a mutual decision, but neither Hanley or her cast are volunteering any spoilers.
“It leads up to that point, but that’s not really what this play is about,” Hanley says. “It’s more about their journey.”
“Talley’s Folly” premiered on off-Broadway in 1979 then moved to Broadway in 1980. Wilson actually wrote it as the second play in a trilogy about the Talley family, but it was the first to be performed.
“This is a popular play for colleges to perform, because it has such a small cast,” Guidry says. “And thought the college production I saw was very good, the actors were in their 20s, and they lacked the experience of these two characters.”
Guidry is a theater teacher at the Math, Science & Arts Academy West in Plaquemine. She, like Sally Talley, is a single, career-minded woman.
“I can identify with her,” Guidry says. “I grew up in the Northeast, and I have liberal views, but my family in the South is very conservative.”
Leute is an adjunct professor of theater at Baton Rouge Community College and played Mark Rothko in last year’s “Red.”
“I like Matt,” he says of his character. “He’s an intellectual, a thinker, and he has serious views on politics. I key in on his thirst and celebration for second chances.”
And after a lifetime of believing they’ll never truly belong in the world around them, Matt and Sally may get that second chance.