Frustrated hopes, as often in Wilson, play a large part in the story, though we can easily predict that at least one will be fulfilled: Matt, playing host, invites us to think of the piece as a "valentine" and a "waltz." Wilson dodges the implied sentimentality by filling the couple's intense cat-and-mouse game with all the dark matters of the time: the war, the Holocaust, the Depression, huge political upheavals and heinous economic corruptions, plus a litany of personal betrayals and deceits. Matt and Sally are linked because they're both virtual magnets for the modern world's suffering.
Burstein and Paulson, under Michael Wilson's direction, give the characters more heartfelt connections than their mutual share in the world' misery. With their high-contrast body language they paint the kinds of opposites who attract, while at the same time working technically in intriguingly opposite ways. He elegantly balances inner grief with warm, showy flamboyance, while she digs deeper and deeper inward, till her emotions explode out at the climax. Their resistance to the bond they forge provides half its charm. Wilson needs the ungainly, half-comical magic their pairing brings: His boathouse, designed by Jeff Cowie, lacks the haunted whimsicality the place requires. In John Lee Beatty's design for the original production, to see the boathouse was itself like meeting one more new person.