A long time ago a friend of mine said in passing that she believed many women fell in love with the men who fell in love with them first. Well that is true of Sally Talley (Sarah Paulson) anyway, whose suitor is the relentless and heart on the sleeve Matt Friedman (Danny Burstein). Danny has returned to the scene of the crime to which he only alludes. It happened last summer - that date being 1943 - and it happened between him and Sally.
After that he pretty much skedaddled without a by-your-leave. Now he has come back like a homing pigeon because he realizes that he will not be able to breathe without Sally in his life. Sally, on the other hand, has a heart that has pretty much closed up show. She is 31 and already thought to be a Woman of a Certain Age. Everyone else is either married, widowed or given up. Sally is a nurse's aide in town, treating the war veterans, some of whom will never leave the hospital. She lives with relatives because no one else wants her. And the one thing she wants is to get out.)
But this is not enough to make her fall into the arms of one Matt Bernstein. For one thing he is Jewish, and that is frowned upon in 1943. For another, he already broke her heart when he left last summer, and she is not about to make the same mistake.
So, the lines are drawn, and a battle of the heart is laid out.
What a brave play this is. There are no special effects, no song and dance. There is nothing to get in the way of two people talking. It is a simple set up with a reach that goes all the way down to your toes and then some. In 97 minutes we go from Matt telling us, before Sally appears, that if all goes well, This will be a waltz. He is not, he says, a romantic. Then he spends the next 97 minutes being romantic at full tilt. He cajoles. He jokes. He explains. And when all else fails he is honest about his life, how he came to be who he is, and what the stakes are. He came from very far away, and has a tale that is so sad he would rather not tell it at all. But he does.
And it is this honesty that finally filters down through Sally's great wall, until she is forced to lower her guard and lay her own sad tale on the table.
Turns out that neither listener much cares about the other's sad tale in the good old fashioned judgmental way.
Mr. Wilson spins their tales like a spider spinning a web made of heartstrings. Bursteind is exquisite, and Paulson eventually arrives at a sort of state of grace that is beguiling. Wilson's direction is without affectation, and together this team does achieve a waltz.
It is a waltz that has its own rhythm, but no matter that, because these two characters have their own orchestra - each other.
"Danny Burstein and Sarah Paulson infuse this gossamer two-character play with a warm, slightly spiky humanity that breathes vital life into material that might in lesser hands feel creaky or sentimental. "
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Heart-stirring revival gets it all so right — acting, direction, design."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"The show consists of just two characters, who must overcome caution, prejudices and the obligatory secrets to come to terms with their feelings for each other. They are so bruised, so tender that it's practically impossible not to root for them. Doubly so, since they're portrayed with keen empathy by Danny Burstein and Sarah Paulson."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"The brilliant Danny Burstein and Sarah Paulson dance a delicate, enthralling waltz. ... a treasure."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"A strong, endearing performance that makes this occasionally schematic play work very well."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"Too obviously artificial for my taste."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
External links to full reviews from popular press...
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