Sunday, August 01, 2010

TALLEY'S FOLLY: Stalker triumphs in love

I had forgotten the plot of the 1980 Pulitzer-prize winning play TALLEY'S FOLLY because I could barely stay awake when I saw a community theater production. The plot is basically this: a stalker stalks a woman for a year, and then gets her alone and talks her into submission through the sad tale of his life. The woman, of course, is beautiful and eleven years younger than the non-beautiful middle-aged stalker.

I didn't remember the stalker aspect of the play when I saw it, I just remember the incredible lack of anything interesting on the stage, but Wikipedia lays it out:
While on vacation in Lebanon, Missouri the previous summer, Matt met Sally and has sent her a letter every day since. Though the single reply from Sally gave him no hope for romantic encouragement, he has bravely returned to ask her to marry him.


Sally arrives at the boathouse and is in disbelief that Matt has shown up uninvited, even though he had written her that he planned to come for the holiday.


Matt's interest in Sally had never waned; once, he drove from his home in St. Louis to the hospital where she worked and waited hours for her, even after being informed that she was not available.


Admitting that he has called Sally's aunt every two weeks during the past year, Matt reveals that he knows Sally was fired from a Sunday school teaching job..

And after all this, he gets her alone and then talks her into marrying him in under two hours. Because this play is a middle-aged creeper's wet dream.

Notice how the Wikipedia entry - which sounds like it was taken right from marketing copy - refers to the stalker coming to confront the stalkee after a year of rejection "brave"?

You would think that with all this creepy stalking, the play would have more dramatic tension, but my memory of it was just two people - mostly the man - talking and talking endlessly and then they get engaged. Even I didn't pick up on the creepy stalker angle when I saw it in 1993. My guess is because the play - and the playwright - consider a man stalking a woman to be not only unremarkable, it's even considered sweet and "brave" - like it's just something that men do - no does not mean no. This attitude has always served men, not women, even if it wasn't considered potentially criminal harassment in the 1940s when the play was set, or the late 1970s when the play was written.

But we call it what it is now - stalking and harassment. But anybody who puts this play on clearly considers stalking perfectly acceptable - even "brave."

In any case, even the disturbing stalker aspect does not give this play any dramatic power. That's pretty amazing.

Every now and then a critic will notice that this play is really boring but they almost always blame the production and not the lame-ass play.

The fact that this play won a Pulitzer demonstrates only one thing - that as usual, when it comes to theater, most people cannot discern shit from Shinola. Robert Graves, the author of "I, Claudius" got that - which is why he said: "A remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good in spite of all the people who say he is very good."

I don't care if it means I won't get a Pulitzer Prize - I refuse to make JULIA & BUDDY, also a two-hander about heterosexual love - as boring as this play. And nobody will talk anybody into marrying them on the basis of persistent stalkertude.