At the Florida Repertory Theater, the opening night's audience gave a rip-roaring standing ovation to the cast and the production. And I know why. It was a perfect evening of live theater.
I give it five stars. Now, you get five reasons why I urge you to get tickets, fast. Call the box office at 239-332-4488.
One Star: Lanford Wilson's play is a gem. It's what we call a 'well-written play,' crafted shrewdly, it builds and it builds and smashes into a denouement you don't forget. No wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980.
Talley's Folly is the second part of his trilogy, and came seven years after his Hotel Baltimore, the play that brought him into the big time. The man knows how to write.
Two Stars: The cast is perfect and that made all the difference. A two-character play is no small feat. You have to like the people for it to work. In Rachel Burttram and Chris Clavelli, Lanford was given a duo that pulled it off with brilliance. Trust me on this one. You, too, will rave at how they richly, fully, believably, portrayed Sally Talley and Matt Friedman.
Three Stars: The play, cast in 1944, after World War II, set in Lebanon, Mo., is frighteningly relevant today. Matt Friedman is an older immigrant Jewish accountant from the big city, St Louis. A shadow of the Holocaust floats on him, and he has fallen in love with a very Christian daughter of the second richest family in the Ozarks.
Four Stars: Tally's Folly is no soap opera. Lanford Wilson doesn't write soap.
(I will never forget his play, Burn This, starring John Malcovich and Joan Allen, 1987. We bumped into Malcovich walking down 47th St.; shook his hand and let him be.) That haunting play burned in me on for years after.
So, the play on the boards at the Rep is a lovely, romantic play. The chase is rich with humor and you can't help but get into each of their shoes. I repeat; you truly come to care about both of them.
Five Stars: In true Rep fashion, the production details are outstanding. There is no curtain, so you see the boat house in full 3-D, like no movie could give it to you. Come early, just to see the set Richard Cowell has designed. Roberta Malcolm did the witty and wise costumes, and they help in every way.
Hats Off to Jackson Phippin, who directed. I saw brilliant little touches, all evening, because they worked without hitting you over the head. So much of great theater goes beyond the stars on stage.
Yet I can't close without giving the highest praise again, to what the two stars brought to the play. They filled their roles with such elegance, and they played off each other as only two of the finest pros we have seen in Southwest Florida could have. And given the fine script, they made this a truly memorable evening of live theater. Hurry, it only plays until Dec. 16.
Florida Repertory Theater is in Downtown Ft. Myers, at the historic Arcade Theatre. Call the box office at239-332-4665 for tickets. Tell them you saw a review in the Sanibel Captiva Islander newspaper.