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Jewish Theatre of Bloomington brings staged reading expertise to virtual performance

Joel Pierson | The Herald-Times

Thursday, November 26, 2020


Staged readings can be a risky proposition in live theater. Presented well, they can make audiences forget that scripts are in hand, invoking the imagination to fill in the details as the performers bring everything they have to their vocal and facial performances. In lesser hands, it can be a prolonged and lifeless story hour.

The good news is, over the years, Jewish Theatre of Bloomington has honed the art of the staged reading. In August, they brought great energy to “The Grandkid,” and in early December, they’re looking to bring that same energy to a classic work of American theater, Lanford Wilson’s “Talley’s Folly.” and because pandemics gotta pandemic, this staged reading will be presented virtually.

Martha Jacobs will be directing, which gives me further reason to believe this will be a great show, even without sets and costumes and props.

Set in Missouri in 1944, “Talley’s Folley” is a romantic comedy about Jewish accountant Matt Friedman and his desire to win the love of Sally Talley, deemed an “old maid” at 31 by her very conservative Protestant family. Each feels like an outcast in his or her own life, but Matt hopes that together, things will make more sense. This play won a Pulitzer Prize, and it’s been loved by audiences for decades.

Conforming to the Aristotelian unities for theater, the play takes place on a single night, July 4, 1944, in a single location, the boathouse on the Talleys’ farm. Matt met Sally the previous summer, and he has sent her a letter every day for that year. Sally has sent him a letter … That’s it. She’s sent him a letter. Being male, that’s good enough for Matt, and he’s ready to ask her to marry him.

What could go wrong when he invites himself to their home for the holiday? Of course, Jews aren’t welcome in that household, least of all a 42-year-old who wants to court their innocent daughter. There’s a lot more going on than just a will they/won’t they rom-com here. Wilson delves into some very meaningful topics that have a certain timelessness to them, making this a well-rounded theatrical experience.

JTB’s virtual reading features Anna Doyle and Daniel Meeks. Anna was last seen in JTB’s first virtual staged reading, “The Grandkid,” as well as “Leipzig” and at IU in “Ascendant” and “Hamlet.” Daniel Meeks has recently appeared in “Little Women,” “Wonderful Town,” “Titus Andronicus” and “The Heiress.” JTB’s Audrey Heller shared, “With this strong two-person cast and a new medium, JTB is excited to bring this new opportunity to Bloomington and worldwide audiences.”

Performance dates for “Talley’s Folly” are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 and 2 p.m. Dec. 6. The reading is free, but an RSVP is required, and $25 donations are suggested. Attendees must RSVP on JTB’s website by Dec. 3 to receive a Zoom link to the staged reading. To RSVP, visit For more information on the Jewish Theatre or to make a donation, please visit

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