Burning Coal Theatre Company Touchingly Performs Talley’s Folly by Lanford Wilson

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1980 play Talley’s Folly, Lanford Wilson teaches many of us a new meaning for the word “folly,” which is an almost-synonym for gazebo. It’s an outdoor structure that is, simply, a folly — something with no purpose. It’s there to be there.

Joel Soren creates a delightful folly, bespangled with ivy, heading to dilapidation, and plunked down behind a boat dock between two ramps, for the current Burning Coal Theatre Company production of Talley’s Folly. Sound designer Juan Isler keeps the outdoorsy nighttime real with the chirps and singing and croaking of nature.

Burning Coal’s founding artistic director Jerome Davis steps onto the stage as Matt Friedman, and charms us with his first lines which also inform us about exits, rest rooms and electronic devices. We love Matt immediately; he’s funny and he’s real and he has heart.

Complementing him, as Sally Talley, Emily Rieder displays a nice range of emotional life, and the onstage ease of a veteran actor. She creates the arc of her character subtly; and, early on, one may wonder what makes Sally so interesting to Matt that he plans this meeting so deliberately.

Adding to the complexity of this story is an assortment of objects within the folly, that become entangled in the plot, thanks to properties manager Danielle James.

Director John Gulley is fortunate to have two actors of this high quality to work with. The chemistry between the two is palpable, and only grows throughout the story. Gulley helps them find all the nuances, although from our seats we saw Emily Rieder’s back more often than necessary.

The story could almost be called simple, boy seeks girl. But it is in the telling of the story that the meat is found. Two people slowly discover (perhaps, “uncover” is the better word) themselves as they work on discovering each other.

Emily Rieder and Jerome Davis star in Talley’s Folly by Lanford Wilson (photo by Cari Grindem-Corbett)

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 24th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9702; and Jan. 21st Raleigh, NC WRAL.com interviews with actors Jerome Davis and Emily Rieder, conducted by Ken Smith: https://www.wral.com/burning-coal-theatre-presents-talley-s-folly/18900601/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 25th Triangle Review review by Melanie Simmons, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2020/01/burning-coals-delightful-presentation-of-talleys-folly-is-a-valentines-day-treat/.)

Burning Coal Theatre Company presents TALLEY’S FOLLY at 2 p.m. Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2 p.m. Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6-8, and 2 p.m. Feb. 9 in Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

TICKETS: $25 ($15 students, teachers, and active-duty military personnel and $20 seniors 65+), except “Pay-What-You-Can” Day on Sunday, Jan. 26th, $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), $15 Thursdays, and $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or https://burningcoal.secure.force.com/.

SHOW: https://burningcoal.org/talleys-folly-by-lanford-wilson/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1006853256353303/.

VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.facebook.com/pg/burningcoaltheatrecompany/videos/.

STUDY GUIDE: https://burningcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/Talleys-Folly-Study-Guide.pdf.

2019-20 SEASON: https://burningcoal.org/2019-2020-season/.

PRESENTER: http://www.burningcoal.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Burning.Coal.Theatre, and https://twitter.com/burningcoaltc.

VENUE/DIRECTIONS: http://burningcoal.org/murphey-school-auditorium/.

NOTE 1:The 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26th, show is a “Pay-What-You-Can” Performance.

NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26th, performance.

NOTE 3: There will be post-show talkbacks on Sunday, Feb. 2nd, and Friday, Feb. 7th. Click here and scroll down for details.


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.