Written by Jasey Roberts
On Mar. 18-20, Theatre Roanoke College put on a production of “Talley’s Folly,” written by the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Lanford Wilson. The production was run by longtime TRC director and associate professor of Fine Arts, Dr. Lisa Warren, with set design by technical director Rob Besselo and costume design by Aspyn Totten.
The show is a two-hander—starring Charlotte Gaston as Sally Talley, a young Southern Protestant belle, and Brackety-Ack columnist Zach Dalton as Matt Friedman, a joke-obsessed German-Jewish immigrant who has fallen for her and who is attempting to rekindle their relationship. The play takes place in a boathouse in Southern Missouri, on the Fourth of July during World War II.
“Talley’s Folly” was rehearsed and performed under strict COVID-19 guidelines. The show was streamed online for free with donations accepted, and for those who came to Olin Hall to watch the show in-person, masks, limited seating and RC ID were required. Besselo said that as the show stood on the second night, they were allowed a maximum of 46 seats.
Gaston and Dalton remained 10 feet apart from each other at all times during the performance, often speaking to each other from across two platforms on the set. Intricate blocking was also involved: “Talley’s Folly” is a play written to have no act breaks, so for the entire 90 minutes that the show occupied, Gaston and Dalton weaved and maneuvered around each other while delivering very intricate and complex monologues. Creative workarounds were found for stage directions that, based on current guidelines, could not be performed. On one specific occasion, there was a handkerchief that the character of Sally was meant to pass to the character of Matt, which Gaston laid on a crate for Dalton to pick up.
The two were an excellent pairing: Gaston breathes life into this hopeful, gentle and also occasionally explosive young woman who desires more, and Dalton is daring, subversive and heartbreaking in his portrayal of Matt. They are also both—to say the very least—funny as can be.