Friday, August 12, 2016

Documenting the descent of TALLEY'S FOLLY

The true message of TALLEY'S FOLLY
My jihad against the sexist TALLEY'S FOLLY continues.

As I noted last October about TALLEY'S FOLLY, the tide is slowly turning against it thanks to the dawning awareness that bullying and cajoling a woman into marrying you is not actually romantic.

More evidence on that score from this review in February of a production in Las Vegas:
On the page Matt has an undeniable charm but is also extremely aggressive and a downright stalker, with behavior that would be intolerable to most modern women. During the “Buzzz” director Ann Marie Pereth talked about softening Matt’s aggression in order to make the play more immediate, more relatable for the audience of today. 
This is the first time I've seen where a critic actually allows that the play is no longer relatable to contemporary audiences, as-is. Because it's a play about a stalker who refuses to believe that no means no. It's only a matter of time before theater companies get hip to the fact that an aggressive asshole does not make for a charming suitor. 

Unfortunately it's still getting a whole bunch of productions and critics are still coming up with excuses for why Matt is not a raging asshole. Like this review by Lisa Jensen of a Santa Cruz production:
But when she comes home from her job as a nurse’s aide in a hospital, tending the war-wounded, Sally (Monica West) is more angry than eager to see him. She can’t believe he presented himself to her conservative, xenophobic family, and tries to give him the brush-off, but he won’t take “no” for an answer. Or rather, as he tells her, if she did tell him “no,” he would take it. But for all her hand-wringing and high dudgeon, she never quite tells him outright there is no hope for them. And through this loophole, Matt slips in to reasonably and respectfully plead his case.
I don't know if Jensen fell asleep during the play or what but "respectful" is not how Matt treats Sally - or her family or her community. And she literally tells him to leave the boathouse, which he not only refuses but physically prevents her from calling out to her brothers and from leaving the boathouse herself. Apparently unless you actually use the word "no" then your protestations don't count. Rape defense lawyers would love to have a whole jury box of Lisa Jensens.

And then for the same production, a critic named Joanna Engelhart finds Sally's demeanor problematic:
And while West does a credible job of vacillating between what her mind and her heart are telling her, at times she’s a tad too strident and unfeeling. Clearly Matt had to have some reason for thinking Sally would be receptive to his proposal.
No, if you go by the script. he has no reason to think she'd be receptive except if you buy into the idea that bitches is crazy, and when they say no they mean yes, and you have to give them a bitch-slap - almost literally, in this play.

But gradually, more and more critics are becoming aware of the hideousness of the TALLEY'S FOLLY gender dynamic, obscured by all the sentimentality and bullshit. As Jay Gabler says of a recent production in Bloomington:
Matthew is a real talker, joking and telling stories to break the tension surrounding his reunion with Sally. You'll best enjoy Talley's Folly if you're willing to settle in and let the elliptical dialogue take its course. The two actors have an easy chemistry; we readily see how sparks flew between them, and root for it to happen again. (It's an uncomfortable fact, though, that multiple times in the course of the play, Matthew resorts to physical manhandling.)
Uncomfortable. Yah think?

The excerpt of the play below is the outrageous bullshit that critics who love the play either ignore, excuse or don't mind. And the part where he asks her if she's rational, after he's been restraining her and muffling her, is the most perfect expression of the utter contempt that Lanford Wilson and the people who love this play have for women.


-Get gone now. Leave before I hit you with something. You can walk to the Barnettes', they'll give you some gas for a couple of coupons.


Now who is making the disturbance?


               (Angry, quite loud.)

Get off this property or get out of my way so I can go back to the house, or I'll disturb you for real.


We are going to settle this before anyone goes anywhere.


I won't be made a fool just because I fell in love again, Matt, and I won't be pushed around again.


You're not getting away from me.


Get out of here!


Do you realize what you said? Did you hear yourself?


             (Yelling toward the door.)

Buddy! Cliffy! Here he is. Matt Friedman is down here!
(Her last words are muffled by Matt's hand as he grabs her and holds her fast. She tries to speak over his lines.)

              (Grabbing her.)

Vilde chaya! you are a crazy woman! We could both be shot with that gun. People do not scream and yell and kick.

              (She stops struggling.)

People are blessed with the beautiful gift of reason and communication.

              (He starts to release her.)



               (Grabbing her again.)

How can such a thing happen? When they passed out logic everybody in the Ozarks went on a marshmallow roast. You are rational now?