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Everything was Possible and Nothing Made Sense

September 13, 2011

Bargains, Buddy. That’s what maturity amounts to. When we’re young, there is no limit to the roles we hope to play–star, mother, hostess. I wanted to do it all but I learned to choose. And suddenly our selections are chiseled in marble…

Follies may be one of Stephen Sondheim’s best, but it is not a happy musical. And Bernadette Peters’ Sally Durant Plummer is easily the saddest to ever delude herself for our entertainment. She may have garnered brisk entrance applause upon her character’s shy and vulnerable entrance, but for the remainder of the night, all the audience could manage for her was the slow, deliberate clap of theatergoers shaken to the very soul. It’s a show about maturity, choices, the road not taken, and the road along which one must continue.

I find it hard to speak about this show to someone who hasn’t seen it, because so much of the action is in silence and staging that to describe it would be a disservice: the ghost picking apart a dead flower; the heart-wrenching staging of “Too Many Mornings;” the unbelievably long silence during Buddy and Sally’s fight, which left chests throughout the theatre concave from lack of air; and the horrible-to-the-point-of-emotional-trauma fight before “Loveland,” just to name a few. If Bernadette is heart-breaking, then her on-stage husband, played Danny Burstein might be more so; Jan Maxwell as Phyllis Rogers Stone is a force to be reckoned with (if you dare) and her counterpart, Ron Raines is exactly the kind of lost and infuriating soul that every theatergoer can sympathize with and hate at the same time. Follies is the sort of show where every supporting character gets her moment in the spotlight and, in this production, every actress is golden.

If you can manage a trip to the city before it closes in January, GO. And spring for some good seats, because you want to be able to see the tears streaming down Bernadette’s cheeks and the furious sadness of Jan Maxwell’s “Could I Leave You?”. You’ll never be the same, and that’s a good thing.

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