Saturday, August 11, 2018

The painfully slow but inevitable reckoning of TALLEY'S FOLLY

TALLEY'S FOLLY won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980. TALLEY'S FOLLY is "romantic." TALLEY'S FOLLY only requires two actors and one set.

Few younger people seem interested in TALLEY'S FOLLY with its cis-heterosexual white couple, but young people are not the ones programming community theater, or off-Broadway bread-and-butter crowd-pleasers.

And so TALLEY'S FOLLY is still being produced in spite of the fact that it is a play about a stalker bullying a woman into marriage.

I have been blogging about my distaste for TALLEY'S FOLLY over the years. But I missed this excellent blog post from a blog called Ramblings of a Theatre Nerd, critical of TF, posted five years ago. Up until today I thought I was the only non-critic to mention TF and its disturbing stalker/bully aspects.

One aspect of the play that Theatre Nerd mentioned, which I didn't, is the audience's clueless response to the play:
But I think what bothered me the most was the audiences reactions. As Matt was saying all the ways he’s been stalking her (pursuing her) for the passed year, people would aww. As he’d control her, the audience would aww. 
And this is why abuse goes unnoticed. This is why society doesn’t get it. This is the problem. The abuser is charming at first. He disguises his nasty mask as this amazing guy – until it’s too late. And it can be so subtle that unhealthy behaviors can be perceived as ‘wow, this guy must really love me (her).’   
So, that’s why I didn’t like Talley’s Folly, and that’s why I’m not happy that this is considered a love story. We have some work to do, society! 

Five years ago I blogged that reviewers were finally begin to notice the truly awful subtext of the play.  Curiously, since then, there have been fewer mentions of Matt being a stalker in theater reviews of TALLEY'S FOLLY. However, I don't think that necessarily means critics are less likely to pick up on it. I think it's possible that since the #metoo movement, many theatre companies are passing on TF because either they recognize the problem at the heart of the play, or theatre companies are being run by new blood who aren't interested in TF.

So now, only the more backwards theater companies in more conservative communities are producing it, and they aren't likely to have a feminist perspective on the play. A search on "Talley's Folly" and "review" for the period of 2017-2018 demonstrates there are virtually no in-depth reviews of the small-potatoes productions of TF that happened during that time period.

I consider that a good sign.