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Pulitzer Prize winner comes to Playhouse
Joel Altherr and Hailey Fowler rehearse for Talleys Folly on Wednesday at the Cumming Playhouse. The show runs through Nov. 3. - photo by Crystal Ledford

If you’re going

The Cumming Playhouse presents “Talley’s Folly” at 3 p.m. today and Nov. 3, and 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Tickets are $20 for adults 18 and older and $15 for those younger than 18 or older than 60, veterans and groups of 25 or more. For more information or to buy tickets, go to or call (770) 781-9178.

The current Cumming Playhouse production may not be as well known as others that have graced the stage, but it has garnered some impressive recognition.

The Company Players began its short run of “Talley’s Folly” on Thursday. The show continues at 3 p.m. today and Nov. 3, and at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Director Gabriel Russo said the performance features just two characters — Matt Friedman, portrayed by Joel Altherr, and Sally Talley, taken on by Hailey Fowler.

The play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1980, was also graced with New York Critics’ award for the best written show of the decade, meaning it was chosen as the best play of the entire 1980s.  

“And somehow it’s managed to cling to obscurity,” said Gabriel Russo, who directs the local production.

“It’s such a pleasure to view. It’s just a beautiful show.”

With no set changes, the entire play takes place on the evening of July 4, 1944, at a dilapidated Victorian boathouse that was built by an uncle of Sally Talley. It has become known as Talley’s Folly.

Through the course of the evening, the unlikely love story of Friedman and Talley plays out.

“They fell in love with each other a year ago when Matt came to town, but Sally has since decided that’s just silly. You don’t fall in love in a week,” Russo said. “And Matt’s like, ‘No, we’re in love and we’re getting married.’

“There are these secrets they each have … and they literally fight it out until they fall in love again. It’s interesting to watch.”

Russo said he fell in love with the play about a decade ago when he portrayed the male lead.

For several years, Russo said he had been looking for a venue that would be a good fit for the show.

“Luckily, the Cumming Playhouse is very open to doing a range of shows, not just the standard musicals and comedies,” he said.

While “Talley’s Folly” isn’t a true comedy, it does offer plenty of funny moments, Russo said.

“I would call it a ‘dram-edy,’” he said. “It’s kind of like some of the Robin Williams’ movies, like ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ or ‘Patch Adams,’ where you find yourself laughing and crying all at the same time.

“There are a lot of powerful and complex emotions in there.”

Fowler, who portrays the female role, said while she’s enjoying the show, it is challenging to be in a full-length production with just two characters.

“This is an exhausting show because we don’t get a break until intermission and then no more breaks,” she said. “But I feel honored to get to do this part and be in this show because it’s amazingly well-written. It’s special to get to do this.”

Her co-star said he feels the same.

“When there are just two of you and you get a tenth of the way in to it and start recognizing how much more you have to go, it can get scary,” Altherr said. “But I think [Fowler] and I are going to challenge each other and I know it’s going to be a good product.”

For Russo, the show is ultimately one of hope.

“I think the main message is that there truly is someone out there for everyone and love is worth fighting for,” he said.