The word “folly” as used in this play’s title primarily refers to architecture, as it is set in an aging boathouse known as “Talley’s Folly” on a river near Lebanon in the Missouri Ozarks. Just two characters—31-year-old Sally Talley (Maia Mook) and forty-something Matt Friedman (Ed Giron)—and a suspenseful moment in history (1944) are all it takes to set this rich and dark one-act romantic comedy in motion. Of course there are many presences hovering nearby, and Giron and Mook do a wonderful job of populating the stage with them—he by imitating the gestures and manners of the Talley family, most of whom have objected strenuously to the presence of this big-city man in their quiet town. The substance of the play flows from the resistance that a traumatized Sally mounts against Matt’s steady courtship, and how sharing stories gradually melts it away.
As Matt, Giron shoulders two burdens, as he must sustain his character’s pursuit of Sally and manage the pace of the action in the play. This is made clear by Matt’s opening monologue, in which he insists that the whole thing will only take “97 minutes,” a figure that will be recalled more than once before the evening is through. Through a solid understanding of the material, and guided by the direction of Bill Waxman, Giron succeeds in keeping things on track so that distracting slowdowns are minimized. Matt’s pursuit of Sally is another thing entirely. The nurse of the Ozarks fights hard to keep her distance and her secrets. Mook begins somewhat frantically, but soon settles into a wary and sustained performance that gives the evening its backbone. After hearing his story of flight from the war and most reluctantly giving up her own tale of small-town betrayal and disappointment, Sally finally admits that she has feelings for Matt. As Mook plays her, it’s less about the way that Sally responds to love than it is about the respect she gains for herself through learning to trust a relative stranger. Throughout, Lanford Wilson’s writing blends in just the right amount of class and historical consciousness, raising things above the level of sentimentality without pushing them over into anything didactic.