Monday, October 12, 2015

TALLEYS FOLLY - the tide is slowly turning

As I observed about the play TALLEY'S FOLLY three years ago:
As the post-baby boomers become old and become the theatre audience, they might not be so comfortable with the extreme patriarchy of this play - and TALLEY'S FOLLY will one day go the way of WHY MARRY, the 1918 Pulitzer Prize winner that nobody ever produces anymore. Because it's crap.
So sure, few people notice the egregiousness of TALLEY'S FOLLY now, but that's just because I'm ahead of the curve.
And I'm here to gloat that my prediction seems to be slowly coming true. TF is still frequently produced - no doubt in part because it's cheap, with an easy-to-make set ($200 and a trip to Home Depot should do it) and cast of two. There were several productions in 2015 in the US.

Of course older people still love it. The author of this glowing review, which refers to Sally as a "spinster" and claims there's nothing offensive in the play appears to be in his 60s based on his FB page, as does the author of this glowing review.

The author of this review appears to be in her 30s and while she doesn't use the word "stalker" she does say:
Yes, I questioned the dogged way Matt finally gets Sally to reveal her story - it seemed to border on bullying - but perhaps the problem-solving accountant knows this is the only way to break through her defenses.
But naturally she bends over backwards to excuse Matt's awful behavior, which is the standard critics' approach to the play. That review, like this one, both also cite this passage to excuse the stalking, in the tradition of "you could tell she wanted it by the way she was dressed."
"You can chase me away, or you can put on a pretty dress," he wryly surmises. "But you can't put on a pretty dress to come down here and chase me away."
Well 35 years of mindless critical adulation does take some time to wind down. But there are signs it is indeed winding down and even clueless critics are getting clued in. Three reviews note the horrific sexual politics this year. 

From a 2015 perspective, Matt's persistence might seem like stalking. Yet he is chirpy and confident. Enraptured with the beauty of the Missouri countryside, he exudes confidence that the war will soon end and prosperity ensue
But even while the critic acknowledges the reality that the hero of this play is a stalker, he follows up with "Yet he is chirp and confident." As if that somehow ameliorates the stalking.

But he has no boundaries and can’t take no for an answer, which raises the stalker-or-romantic question (especially when he physically obstructs her escape and stifles her screams with his hand).
Yes, thank you. What a fucked-up scene. A stalker and a bully - how romantic.

Nor has director Joy Carlin figured out a way to make us understand Matt’s almost stalker-like persistence in the face of Sally’s intransigence, or to believe in Sally’s continual, too obviously choreographed, attempts to leave the boathouse.
I would not blame the director for that. But best of all, the critic suggests that the play is so over formalistically.
Ultimately, in the context of today’s dramatic literature, marked by the potent ultra-realism of playwrights such as Annie Baker, Neil LaBute, the young Irishmen and others, “Talley’s Folly – despite its lyricism and its hints at deep social issues – feels too obviously manipulated.

And that is what will doom the play to well-deserved obscurity long before the atrocious romanticizing of male entitlement will.

Meanwhile, I am working on a ten-minute play that presents the trapped-in-a-boathouse-with-a-stalker scenario more realistically. I actually wrote a 40 minute version several years ago, but I think ten minutes is enough.