Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

Talley's Folly
Burning Coal Theatre Company
Review by Garrett Southerland

Also see Garrett's review of Everybody

Cari Grindem-Corbett
Photo by Jerome Davis and Emily Rieder
It has been said that opposites attract, and a Protestant midwestern spinster and a Jewish immigrant northerner definitely qualify, especially in the forties. It might not be a great surprise, then, that these two gradually find some shared community and affection in Lanford Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning one-act play, Talley's Folly, currently being presented by Burning Coal Theatre Company and playing at the Murphey School Auditorium through February 9.

The story takes place on July 4, 1944, in Lebanon, Missouri (the author's hometown), at the dilapidated boathouse of the fictional Talley family. (Talley's Folly is the second in a trilogy of plays Mr. Wilson wrote about the Talleys.) It is here, one year ago, that Sally Talley (Emily Rieder), a fiery unwed woman in her thirties, met the gregarious Jewish traveling accountant Matt Friedman (Jerome Davis). Since then, Mr. Friedman has written to Ms. Talley on a regular basis, but she has only replied once.

One year later, Matt has come optimistically to meet Sally again at the place where they supposedly fell in love, to ask for her hand in marriage. In the boathouse, designed by Joel Soren and made romantic by the moonglow and reflections from the water provided by Mathew Adelson and a chorus of crickets and frogs conjured up by Juan Isler, the mismatched expectations these two have held finally will come out. As they learn a bit more about each other, the course of their lives will change forever.

The play is advertised as a romantic comedy, and both the romance and the comedy come more from Matt's side than Sally's, though his humor is at times as much annoying as funny. But Jerome Davis and Emily Rieder are fully committed to their characters and the task of carrying a two-person play.

Under the direction of John Gulley, the production is quaint and lovely. Talley's Folly reminds us that love comes in all forms, and sometimes from people and in places that you least expect. In this Valentine's season, it might awaken love you may have let become dormant, and open your senses to new opportunities for the future.

Talley's Folly runs through February 7, 2020, presented by the Burning Coal Theatre Company in the Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh NC. For tickets and information, please visit or by phone at 919-834-4001.

Playwright: Lanford Wilson
Director: John Gulley
Scenic Design: Joel Soren
Costume Design: Neena Rai
Lighting Design: Matthew Adelson
Sound Design: Juan Isler
Props Design: Danielle James

Matt Friedman: Jerome Davis
Sally Talley: Emily Rieder