Beshert is a Yiddish word meaning preordained. It is often used to refer to finding one’s soul mate. According to an article written by Rabbi Julian Sinclair for The Jewish Chronicle in 2008, “Singles pray to ‘meet their beshert,’ their life partner, the other half of the broken eggshell with whom they will find love and fulfillment.”
It is hard to know if Lanford Wilson was aware of the concept of beshert when he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Talley’s Folly, or if the team at Burning Coal Theatre understood its cultural significance prior to mounting its current production, but there is something about this particular “no-holds-barred” love story that is so enchanting, it’s almost spiritual.
Matt Friedman is a middle-aged Jewish accountant living in St. Louis, Missouri. Sally Talley is a nurse’s aide from a prominent Protestant family living 200 miles away in Lebanon. Matt describes himself as a little crazy because he’s seen too much and knows too much. An evasive Sally says she’s been disappointed in love and has a secret of her own. Nevertheless, whether it is preordained or the work of some mischievous angel, this unlikely pair somehow find a connection. That is beshert.
Although the story is relatively simple and sweet on the surface, the beauty of Talley’s Folly is found in its language. It is a waltz of words that ebbs and flows gorgeously throughout the Burning Coal production. That is a credit to Director John Gulley’s astute command of the rhythm of the piece and Jerome Davis and Emily Rieder’s eloquent and alluring portrayals of Matt and Sally.
While Joel Soren and Greg Osbeck’s sizeable set obstructs sightlines at times, Matthew Adelson’s atmospheric lighting makes up for it by setting the stage and augmenting the story celestially.
There is understated wisdom to Burning Coal’s production of Talley’s Folly that is richly layered, complex, and like most shows in the company’s repertoire, relevant. It is a testament to the intangibles that tear us apart, bring us together, and make us human.