That whatshisname who said, “There are no second acts” obviously never met Sally Talley.
Camarillo Skyway Playhouse’s new production of Talley’s Folly sheds light on those whose lives didn’t work out as planned, and who have retreated into a comfortable place to wait for redemption. When that second chance arrives, we quietly cheer from our seats that they’ll take it.
Jessica Lynn Verdi is spot-on as Sally Talley, a 31-year-old woman in 1944 Missouri who has resigned herself to the spinster life. Lanford Wilson’s sharp writing in the hands of such a skilled actor is a marvelous thing to watch.
Verdi’s co-star, Eric Mello, delivers Matt, the loud accountant who falls in love with Sally and, despite every blockade she throws his way, keeps storming the tower until she lets her hair down. His unease is highlighted by being a Jew in the South. “I’m walking into an unfriendly church in my underdrawers,” he says. Yet Matt isn’t afraid to take a chance, and likens the perception of our own frailty to an egg. “Everyone has Humpty Dumpty syndrome,” he says, fearing that we’ll break if touched.
The action takes place in an abandoned boathouse built by Sally’s uncle. Once frowned upon by the townsfolk as folly, this is Sally’s secret garden, a place she allows to appear dilapidated “like Roman ruins in a garden, so people won’t discover the magic that’s down here.”
Director Dan Tullis and set designer/producer Dean Johnson wisely keep it simple here. Dimly lit, the set and lighting work in basic, precise harmony. And how apropos that this period play comes to life in a former USO entertainment hall.
Beth Glasner’s costuming is both pleasant and thoroughly period, so precise that when Sally reaches for her clutch one almost expects to see an autographed photo of Clark Gable and a war-era Zippo lighter.
The real fireworks in Lanford’s 87-minute play begin around the halfway point. As Sally continues resisting Matt’s charm, the two dig mercilessly into each other’s pasts. Still unmarried at 42, and with his seemingly German accent during the war, Sally brings out Matt’s true background. Sally, by her own right, admits to once being the golden child of the town’s second-richest family, and how she skirted getting married to the son of the town’s wealthiest family. “We were to be united into one big happy factory.”
Sometimes opportunity passes us by, and sometimes we ignore it, assuming another situation will arise and we’ll start anew. It’s this hope that keeps Matt and Sally going, the hope that redemption is going to find us wherever we’re hiding, if we’re not afraid to be found.
Talley’s Folly through Sept. 14 at Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, 388-5716.