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It Happened One Night: Local theatre company performs two person show ‘Talley’s Folly’

Beginning July 7, Bridge Nouveau Theatre Company will begin a three-day run of “Talley’s Folly,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning romantic comedy by Lanford Wilson. The intimate, two-person production is the second outing for the company since its inception in 2015.
The play follows Sally Talley and Matt Friedman, an unlikely couple in 1940s Missouri, over the course of a pivotal night. While on the surface the play is described as a romantic comedy, Wilson’s drama is ultimately a story of humanity that explores themes of loss, hope, love and insecurity.
Gregory Leute, who starred in Bridge Nouveau’s inaugural production last summer, will play Matt, while company member and Equity actress Michele Guidry assumes the role of Sally. Together the two bring a wealth of personal experience to the characters and enhance the emotional reality of the piece.
Leute, who was a Navy pilot before pursuing a career in theatre, said he is especially in love with the play’s exploration of second chances. Both Sally, 31, and Matt, 42, are pursuing a second chance at love in a society that assigns little value to people above a certain age, he said.
“Each of these characters are carrying wounds and scars with them,” Leute said. “They have secrets that some would consider shameful, but with each other’s help and permission they kind of come to terms with those.”
Guidry said as a single woman of a certain age, she identifies with Sally’s struggle in a society that assigns the upmost value to marriage and familial life. She said she thinks the audience will be touched by the trust that develops between Sally and Matt, and will be able to make a personal connection to their relationship.
“I think … they’ll recognize that moment where they met someone where they felt they could be vulnerable with,” Guidry said.
The audience will be up close and personal with the actors as Sally and Matt’s emotional story unfolds, thanks to the intimacy of the production’s unconventional venue, The Guru. The company’s artistic director, Alicia Hanley, said utilizing found spaces as performance venues is a cornerstone of Bridge Nouveau’s mission. Hanley said The Guru’s neighboring antiques shops and overall sense of history lent itself perfectly to the staging of “Talley’s Folly.”
The actors’ and audience’s close proximity will also heighten the intensity of the actors’ in-the-moment style portrayal of the piece. Both Leute and Guidry said they draw on one another’s energy and allow each moment to build into the next, creating a unique experience in which each performance varies from the last.
While exciting, it can also be difficult to successfully execute if the emotional connection between the characters isn’t there or drops, Guidry said.
“There’s a particular challenge with two person shows,” Leute said. “You are creating the entire reality there and you are pretty much hands-on, no power steering engaged.”
Hanley didn’t seem concerned by the play’s quick emotional back and forth. She said both actors bring a wealth of professional experience to the production that elevates the piece to a different level.
“The two of them just have an amazing rapport and chemistry with each other, and it’s really neat to watch them grow and develop working on the story,” Hanley said.
Outside the couple’s romance, Wilson’s drama also touches on the economics, politics and general unrest of the time period, Guidry said. For Matt, a Jewish man who fled persecution in Europe as a child, the social and political circumstances of the time serve as the origin of his personal struggle throughout the play.
To highlight the importance of World War I and World War II to the story’s plot, Bridge Nouveau has partnered with local arts collective Elevator Projects on a custom art installation, Hanley said. The installation will consist of framed love letters, photographs, passports, journal entries and other mementos from the time period donated by residents of Baton Rouge and other Louisiana cities, she said.
Guidry said she hopes the installation will increase the audience’s empathy for Sally and Matt’s situation and help theatregoers better understand the depth behind the love story.
“It’ll bring focus to the entire play and emphasize parts of the play that maybe people wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise,” she said.
Bridge Nouveau’s production of “Talley’s Folly” will run July 7 through July 9 at The Guru. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m, and tickets are available online and at the door.

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