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Stage Lovers Have Good Reason to Get Moony : Theater: The Grove center takes Lanford Wilson's romance "Talley's Folly" outdoors for a little lunar ambience.

August 12, 1995|M.E. WARREN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GARDEN GROVE — A love story is best told by moonlight. And, say the folks at the Grove Theater Center, when the love story is a Pulitzer Prize winner such as Lanford Wilson's "Talley's Folly," only real moonlight will do.

Starting tonight, "Talley's Folly" will play under the moon and stars in the Festival Amphitheater, the center's outdoor performance space. The two-character romance generally is considered a quiet drama best suited to small, hushed theaters, but according to Charles L. Johanson, the center's executive director, there are several advantages to staging it in the open air.

For one, he notes, "we don't have to pay for cricket sounds." Crickets contribute a significant part of the ambience of the play's setting, a rundown Victorian boathouse on a rural stretch of river in Missouri. Beyond that, adds artistic Director Kevin Cochran, outdoors "it's much easier to create a world that's contemplative. You can look beyond the stage to the towering eucalyptus and 40-foot pines."

Despite its history as a home to Shakespearean epics, the amphitheater is characterized by both Johanson and Cochran as "intimate," only ten rows deep, where no audience member is more than 50 feet from the stage. Moreover, for "Talley's Folly" they are trimming capacity from 500 to 300 by selling only the center section, where the sight-lines are best.

*

From the middle seats, the view of Mark Klopfenstein's set is good indeed. The boathouse perches precariously center stage, threatening to sink into the forestage--which Klopfenstein will flood with real water. The great empty spaces stage right and left will house rows upon rows of potted plants that the center has borrowed from a friendly nursery.

And then there's that moon. "The position of the moon is an issue in our rehearsals," notes Patricia Boyette, who plays Sally Talley. "You can't refer to the moon just anywhere when it is actually right over there in the sky.

"And we have fireworks!" The play takes place on the evening of the Fourth of July, and though Wilson's script doesn't call for fireworks, Disneyland is so close that its nightly display will contribute what a frugal playwright chose not to demand.

There's one more thing, says Johanson: Because they've been rehearsing on the stage all day in the California sun, "this is one of the only theaters where the actors have good tans."

* "Talley's Folly" opens tonight at 8 in the Grove Theater Center's Festival Amphitheater, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove. $18.50 to $24.50. Through Aug. 20. (714) 741-9550.

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