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Talley's Folly - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Talley's Folly
After seeing the Lyric's Talley's Folly (we lost chenoameg!) I find that most of what I'm thinking about is differences/similarites to the dpolicar/chanaleh version. All the things I think about the play are still true - I still find Matt more sympathetic than Sally, the writing good, and so on. I found the Lyric Matt very like Dave's Matt, but the Lyric Sally much more different (both harder and more frightened, which meant I could maybe understand her a little more (though I guess having seen it once before helps with that), but like her a little less.). I wonder if this is because Matt's character (for me) is so tied up in the accents and voices?

The only thing that I really didn't like was the music during the Sally-confesses confrontration. My first instinctive reaction was "oh for God's sake, is that someone's cell phone?" Then I realized it was music from the bandstand (there's a line about it), but even so, it made my entire emotional reaction to that scene one of annoyance at the noisemusic as opposed to a reaction to anything going on on stage.

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desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
The sounds effects were all strangely abrupt and brief like that. I found most of the physical stage business awkward, as well, which is odd for the Lyric.

One interesting acting/directing difference I noted between this and TAF/my default imagined version was the level of explicit flirtiness, especially from Matt. Among other things, it somehow made their not-young-ness a little more real for me, but I didn't entirely like it. Matt ended up seeming too smarmy, for one thing...though that was also related to him emphasizing the happy/confident side of the character more than I might have chosen to, I think.
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 13th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
we lost chenoameg!)

I fell victim to no good deed going unpunished. While I was out yesterday afternoon a family locked out of their car borrowed my cell phone to call AAA, but the call took 20 minutes. I wasn't willing to punt any of my plans for the day, so I left my house for the T at 6:40pm, just missed a train in Davis, and was still waiting for a train at Downtown crossing at 7:35pm, so I gave up and went home.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not so much help now, but for future runnings-late, I think taking the Green line to Copley ends up faster than the orange line to Back Bay, just because there are so many more green trains. (It's farther outside for cold/rainy days, though)
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 13th, 2006 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good point, I never think about how close the theater is to Copley, although I've walked much of that area before.
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was thinking about this after I saw the Lyric production (and got to talk to the cast, which still curls my toes).

The biggest difference I noticed between his Matt and mine had to do with centeredness. I think his Matt _needed_ Sally more than mine did... was constantly off-balance leaning towards her. Not so much physically, although of course there was some of that, but emotionally. It made his Matt pushier in some ways, weaker in others, less amusing, more vulnerable, less ironic. It helped position Sally as stronger and harsher. In a lot of ways I think it worked better than my more withdrawn Matt.

Which has gotten me thinking about the difference between playing a role in isolation and playing part of a group, which was cool.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hm, I was almost about to say...well, not quite the opposite. But I think they had many flashes of strong connection, surrounded by a more isolated-from-each-other baseline, than you guys did. Partly because their Sally was more strongly closed off more of the time, but their Matt was also more...self-conscious? calculating? consciously playing for effect, rather than being naturally playful?

He did *also* play a lot more emotional on the parts where he's emotionally stressed; in general, both of them played everything with the gain turned waaay up. Not quite over the top, but getting there. Sometimes that worked well for me, sometimes it didn't.
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with pretty much everything you say here. Their Matt was _all about Sally_, all the time, in a very active way that wasn't necessarily very nice. Mine was always _aware_ of Sally, but in a much more "This is who I am, and I'm gambling you're gonna want that" kind of way.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
To start a subthread in the middle of this - what do people think the purpose of Matt's third-wall-breaking is? (clocking it in at 97 minutes, getting the dog noise, etc). To make it feel more like a reminiscence and less like something happening now? To give more weight to Matt as in control of the scene? I still don't quite know what to make of it, myself.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
On the meta-level, I think it was a) to give the actor a chance to show off in a monologue, and b) perhaps a way for the playwright to get going. (The first bit I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere in Wilson talking about writing the play; the second I'm pulling out of my butt.) :)

On a less meta-level, I think it's a light-hearted way of asking the audience to project themselves back to the historical period. (It also gets in some exposition, but nothing he couldn't--or didn't--get in in the body of the play, so I don't think that's really its purpose.)

Viscerally, it serves to make me fond of Matt, and to set a playful mood (but again, the rest of the play does much the same).

I don't know. Maybe it's not necessary. But I'm fond of it. (Which is odd, because I often have little patience with gratuitous gimmicks. On the other hand, I was much more accepting at age 10. :) )
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's mostly to establish the mood. This isn't going to be a dark, gritty piece. This is going to be a charming, uplifting, lighthearted piece. Go ahead and empathize with the main characters, we aren't going to kill them off on you or anything. It's safe.

firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your Matt was more amusing, which I think comes from the things you said. It made you more enjoyable to watch, but it did make me think more strongly in the TAF show that Matt deserves someone better than Sally. (But again, I was probably very influenced by knowing how it turned out. The first time, the idea of Sally hiding in the kitchen ALL DAY while Matt waited lost her tons of my sympathy, whereas this time I already knew she did that...)
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sally is interesting that way. She's profoundly broken, but high-functioning. It's only when she's pushed to the end of her coping mechanisms that she starts to do completely insane things. It's a tough role.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Somehow in the Lyric's performence, when she revealed her secret, I got a very strong flash of "yes, this sounds like a more trivial thing that what you were imagining, Matt, but in context it really *was* that bad," which had the interesting effect of making me think "ah, and therefore the future really *can* be as easy as Matt is suggesting, because there really is the opportunity to go be in some other context."

Er, I'm saying this badly, but... I bought into the idea that all the things smart-Sally clearly knows (yes, I could just leave home and go get an apartment with Rachel and Ida and associate with people more like me than my family) have finally been connected in to hurt-Sally's awareness. That by saying "well, it wasn't so bad, except it was"--in response to Matt's reaction of "They made your life miserable over *that*? I thought it was something *bad*!"--she's stepping out of the denial-box, not about her pain, but about the fact that it's over. So she can actually give up inflicting the blind spot on her otherwise useful brain.
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oo. I like that.
I never considered the possibility that Matt thought it was trivial. I sorta wish I had, actually, because I like what that does.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
The hurt isn't trivial, but Matt would not have treated someone as worthless because she couldn't have children, even if he didn't have the vow. (Whereas it seems he actually *might* freak out about someone having an illigitimate child.)

It's part of the set of behavior that they both agree is dumb about Sally's family--but she's wrapped up in it and it's part of her reality, where Matt the outsider is free to shake his head and look puzzled. I felt like it clicked for Sally: oh, you really *are* different from them, and so is a lot of the rest of the world; I always knew that, but now I *know* it...
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. I think, when I did it, Matt got really wrapped up in Sally's view of it, and it never occurred to me that he might be outside of it. I was really focused on the snap-point where he goes from badgering her to tell him about the illegitimate child, so they can move past that, to realizing that he's been an insensitive jerk... making sure the audience gets that. Neat. Something to keep in mind if I ever do the show again.
From: tirinian Date: April 13th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I kept thinking about the comparisons to the TAF show at the beginning, but it mostly fell away as I got into the show. The one thing I did notice again was in Sally's big reveal, I only barely noticed what Matt was expecting the reveal to be, where in the TAF show I was totally clear what Matt was expecting and was expecting the same thing. Sadly, I have no idea if that's actually a difference in the shows, or if I just knew what the reveal was the second time.

I do think it's more Matt's show than Sally's (he does far more of the talking, even if you don't include the monologue at the beginning), so maybe it's harder to do different takes on him, 'cause he's better developed in the text?
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's more constrained by the text than Sally is, I think. Not sure I'd say better-developed, though maybe. He sure does have the bulk of the words.

I don't think it's just that you knew what the reveal was... I noticed that too, it wasn't really clear what was happening in Matt's head there.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
it wasn't really clear what was happening in Matt's head there.

This was definitely true for me, but that's because about 70% of what was happening in my head was "I need to stop paying attention to the damned music" :)
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I first saw this play when I was 10 or so, and it's been a favorite since (I convinced a friend to put it on with me in 8th grade as an independant project, and I've read it at scriptreads and things once in a while over the years). Until I saw it at TAF--as an adult, in the company of other adults who hadn't seen it before, I hadn't been bothered by this question, but now I am and was particularly noticing it watching the Lyric show (I don't think this was necessarily due to the production as just that I was primed to think about it). To wit:

Matt must have a theory *from the top of the show* what he thinks Sally's secret is. Mustn't he? He has explicitly been told that there is a secret, anyhow; I suppose the new information Sally gives him is that it involves a broken engagement. OK, maybe that means it does make sense for him to not have a pre-formed theory, which is the way I always read it before, and which gets rid of the problem of why he's suddenly upset about it when he hasn't been bothered for the whole beginning of the show. Never mind, then. :)

(But another question that occured to me more strongly this time, because Sally showed an explicit reaction: Matt warns her that he's here to talk marriage very early on ("I came to talk to your father, I hear that's how things are done in these parts"), and yet she reacts to the more explicit later reference (about changing her name) as though it's a big surprise. Anyone care to comment? :) )
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sally mostly reacts to threats by evading and denying. She can deny and evade the first mention of marriage because she's trying to get rid of it at that point. So now it (along with everything else) is in the box of stuff to not think about. Which means when it comes up again when she's no longer trying to throw him out, she has to deny/evade *again*. Surprise and disbelief are but one tool in the large arsenal available to denial and evasion. And a fanatical devotion to the Pope!

(After the TAF show, I was convinced that Sally would keep denying and evading all the problems in the future, but you assured me she was over it at the end of the play. ;-) )
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
get rid of it -> get rid of Matt.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's true, and it's true.

(And your phrasing it in that particular way forces me to propose: Matt:Sally::Katya:Martan. :) These things can be made to work out. :) )
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
The key thing about Matt, to me, is that he's got about ten tracks runnin' at once, and nobody knows what's goin' down any particular track at any particular time. He's forevermore distracting himself that way.

He's got one track that's all about the war... it's the first thing he talks about to the audience, and the most emotional thing he talks about, it has driven him to make this vow that has isolated him from every woman he's ever met, etc. But it doesn't come up unless it comes up. It colors everything but it sits in the background.

He's got one track that's about proposing to Sally. He knows it, she knows it, and he knows she knows it, and she knows he knows she knows... but unless he actually says it, she doesn't have to respond, and he doesn't have to face the consequences. So he dances. And she dances. It colors everything, but it doesn't come up unless it comes up.

He "knows" Sally was pregnant. That's over on track number three. And he knows she needs to tell him, because what good is an egg 'till it's broken? It colors everything, but it doesn't come up unless it comes up.

He told Buddy about him and Sally, back at the house. Every time she threatens to go back to the house he KNOWS he's already cut off that line of retreat... and he still plays the game. It colors everything, but it doesn't come up unless it comes up.

Matt is a complicated guy.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 13th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
He told Buddy about him and Sally? Not Aunt Charlotte told Buddy and he ended up in argument because of it? (Or was it just that Aunt Charlotte suggested that he tell Buddy because Aunt Charlotte is the secret tactician?)

(Not that your point isn't valid either way, I just realize that that's one of the bits I ended up not sure I understood correctly.)
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mm. My reading had been that he and Lotty had conspired, but he'd spilled the beans. But there's nothing in the text to contradict the second reading, I think.

"We weren't talkin' about isms up at the house, we were talking about you and me, down here at the boathouse, last summer." ... "Are you kidding me? mumble mumble sleep under his roof mumble mumble... we think maybe they'll shave your head." Yeah... it's clearly a jointly planned venture, but the actual reveal could have played either way. In my head it was Matt.

Of course, the fact that seven kinds of hell were breaking loose up at the house that you only find out about in Talley and Sons is also important, but Matt doesn't know about any of that either.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't remember what impression I got from Talley and Son, but going strictly on Talley's Folly, I'd always taken it to be: Matt showed up, Buddy came out to confront him, in the course of the argument (or possibly as the thing that provoked it) Matt spilled the beans, and Lottie was around but not an active participant in the conversation. I hadn't ever considered whether Matt a) told Buddy with the goal of springing Sally from her trap, b) told Buddy because darn it that's what he came here for, or c) just got fed up and yelled it at him in the course of the argument.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 13th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Much of what you're saying there is also about strategizing, though. (Matt's clearly strategizing--though I don't think he has to be doing it as much or as constantly as in the Lyric interpretation.)

He can send out feelers about proposing, but he'd better not do it for real at the wrong time or he may not get a second chance. (As it happens, he does it at a time that's OK enough that he gets a second chance.)

He can't tell Sally he's cut off her retreat when she's actually trying to retreat, because in that context it might be unforgivable, whereas in a different mood she'll see it as more on a par with the breaking down car and maybe even as the favor he's trying to do her.

It's not just a question of dealing when it comes up; it's waiting for--or causing--the opportune moment. ;)
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: April 13th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Definitely. Sometimes he's just deflecting, sometimes he's coming at something the long way 'round, and sometimes he's taking advantage of the opportunity as it arises.

But the script allows for many different reads with respect to levels of stretegizing. In my head he's much less strategic than the script allows. For example, his incompetance at skating and at getting out of the hole is definitely intended to get him physical time with Sally, but his putting the skates on in the first place is just intended to be endearing and distracting.

It could easily be read differently though, and the more strategic he is the less likable he is.
visage From: visage Date: April 13th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I only barely noticed what Matt was expecting the reveal to be, where in the TAF show I was totally clear what Matt was expecting and was expecting the same thing. Sadly, I have no idea if that's actually a difference in the shows, or if I just knew what the reveal was the second time.

This is the first time I've seen the show, and it was pretty clear to me what his theory was.
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