`Folly' could use dose of enchantment

Two characters in Theatre Hopkins production don't quite connect

Theater Column

February 22, 2007|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,sun theater critic

On a freezing February night, being transported to a boathouse on the Fourth of July should come as a welcome relief. But Theatre Hopkins' production of Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly, which takes place in Missouri on that day in 1944, isn't as delightful a respite as it could be.

The boathouse -- the gazebo-like "folly" of the title -- isn't the problem. William Roche has designed an enchantingly rustic set, decked out with props including an old tennis racket, ice skates, wicker picnic basket, etc.

But the sense of enchantment, that is, chemistry, between the two people in the boathouse could stand a boost. Wilson's play is about a seemingly mismatched couple -- a middle-aged Jewish accountant named Matt Friedman and Sally Talley, a gentile nurse's aide who is quickly sliding into what was once considered spinsterhood.

Matt and Sally had a brief fling a year ago, and although her prejudiced family refers to him as "the Communist traitor infidel," Matt hasn't been able to stop thinking about her. When he shows up to ask her to marry him, however, she wants nothing to do with him.

Under Suzanne Pratt's direction, Michel Simon and Stephanie McLaughlin Ranno have no difficulty demonstrating their characters' differences. Simon's Matt is a relentless joker; Ranno's Sally is stern and practical. But, due in part to Simon's shaky delivery, the actors never adequately demonstrate the connection that ultimately brings them together.

"If everything goes well for me tonight, this should be a waltz," Matt tells the audience in his opening monologue. This production has its moments, but it rarely manages to waltz.

Talley's Folly will be performed through Sunday at the Mattin Center on the Homewood campus of the Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St. Tickets are $15. Call 410-516-7159.

Center Stage events

Center Stage's annual radio auction turns 30 years old on Sunday, when 800 items will be up for bid on WBAL radio (1090 AM) from 8 a.m. to midnight. Among this year's more distinctive items are tickets to The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with John Stewart; a walk-on role in The Wire; an autographed catalog from John Waters' latest art exhibit, Unwatchable; the chance to be motorman-of-the-day at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum; a ride-along with the Baltimore Police Department; and tickets to the NASCAR Nextel Cup in Richmond, Va.

A complete list of auction items, with descriptions, can be found at http:--auction.centerstage.org and will be published in The Sun on Sunday.

Also at Center Stage, the theater's series of staged readings of new works by emerging artists, "First Look: Special Edition," continues the next two Mondays. Here's a brief look at the plays -- Feb. 26: Wild Black-Eyed Susans, about a pregnant woman, her best friend, husband and sister in rural West Virginia, by native Marylander Kara Lee Corthron (sister of Kia Corthron, whose Splash Hatch on the E Going Down was produced by Center Stage in 1997); and March 5: Luna Park, about seven young adults sharing a sultry summer day in the park, by Caridad Svich, the author of more than 40 plays.

Showtime for "First Look" at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St. is 8 p.m. Tickets are $5. Call 410-332-0033 or visit center stage.org.

`Wicked' success

Box-office records at the Hippodrome Theatre were broken by the production of Wicked that ended its four-week engagement there Sunday. The show grossed more than $1.2 million a week, approximately $100,000 a week more than the previous record holder, The Lion King, did in 2005, although that show played a 14-week run.

The lottery for $25 tickets also proved a hit, attracting lines even in ice and snow, according to Hippodrome spokeswoman Marilyn Waranch.

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

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