Friday, June 10, 2011

Two actors, one act, completely entertaining

M&D Productions latest show is the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Talley's Folly,” a simple two-person, one-act romantic comedy set in Lebanon, Mo. in the 1940s. It is a direct, charming piece of theater.
“Talley's Folly,” written by Lanford Wilson, who passed away in March, is told in about 90 minutes in real time and focuses on Matt Friedman (Ken Martin), a German-accented man who travels from St. Louis to ask for Sally Talley's (Heather Elsie Hamilton) hand in marriage. A year earlier they had a romantic week together. He's written every day since with no encouragement, but he knows they are meant to be together. 
The show, which opened Thursday and is running at Your Theatre in North Conway Thursday through Saturday for the next three weeks, begins with Matt giving a fourth-wall-breaking monologue explaining that if everything goes to plan the evening will be a waltz. It is a fabulous introduction that is well performed by Martin. It is key in getting the audience on Matt's side. We almost instantly like him and want him to get the girl.
Matt is a wonderful character. He is given an amusing quirk of over-analyzing the English language, a nice touch for someone who has English as a second language. He notes that bees have a life expectancy of 20 days, but then wonders if expectancy is the right word, after all what does a bee expect out of life.
Everything takes place in the decaying boathouse (or Folly) on the Talley property. The Talleys were once a wealthy family that fell on hard times during the depression. The boathouse is yet another astounding bit of set design by Deborah Jasien. The stage is entirely transformed complete with vegetation and flora. The authenticity of the set makes it easy to disappear into this story for 90 minutes.
The tone of the show isn't wild farce or screwball comedy. The bantering dialogue of the show is a delicate mixture of humor and poignancy as each character reveals tragic aspects of their past. It is ultimately these darker elements of their past that show the way to a brighter future together.
Challenged with an accent that could potentially sink his whole performance, Martin overcomes this would-be shortcoming and gives a solid performance. He makes Matt awkward, a bit goofy, but completely sincere and lovable. It is hard to stay mad at him though Sally certainly tries to.
Hamilton makes for a good romantic foil. She keeps up a strong front that keeps being pulled down only to be put back up. She does a good job of balancing her frustrations with a suitor she is trying not to want with her apparent affectionate feelings towards him. Martin and Hamilton have a nice, light chemistry together that isn't forced.
And really that's all that needs to be said. Under the assured hand of director Richard Russo these two actors perform this wonderfully written show beautifully. It isn't elaborate or big theater, but its simple pleasures are hard to beat.
For more information or tickets call the box office at 662-7591.

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