How many times have you reached the end of a great book or play or film and found yourself wishing that you could find out what happened to the characters next? The current trend in film is to take that emotional investment and parlay it into a sequel, often just a new iteration of the same events we saw the first time around. This premise has made billions of dollars for a variety of superhero franchises, simply swapping in a new villain each time around.
While these serialized stories have their own kind of entertainment value, there’s a different kind of richness that comes from a well-told tale that is both expansive and finite. It’s something that very few playwrights even attempt to do, but when the great ones get it right, a truly special theatrical experience is created.
Shakespeare’s history plays could be considered the progenitor of this idea, and in the modern day we’ve been graced with a very few great ones, including Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, Horton Foote’s Orphan’s Home Cycle, and, of course, Lanford Wilson’s trilogy of plays about the Talley family of Lebanon, Missouri.
Fifth of July
The last play chronologically, but the first play Lanford Wilson wrote in what would become his “Talley Trilogy.” This piece takes place on July 5th, 1977, thirty three years and one day after Talley’s Folly and Talley & Son . Kenneth Talley Jr., a paraplegic Vietnam War veteran, has moved back to his childhood home with his partner Jed. An impromptu reunion takes place over the course of the weekend. Ken’s sister, June, is visiting, along with her daughter Shirley and their Aunt Sally (the same Sally from Talley’s Folly). Ken and June’s childhood friends, John and Gwen, now country musicians, are also up for the weekend with their guitarist friend Weston. Gwen wants to buy the Talley home and turn it into her personal music studio, but Sally is not ready to give the house up. Family secrets are revealed, and the characters have to face up to past decisions that impact their future choices.
This is the second piece in the "Talley Trilogy" and takes place simultaneously with Talley & Son. This is the only play in the trilogy where we step outside of the house and into a different area of the Talley farm. The ornate but dilapidated Victorian boat house is where Wilson places the unlikely love story of Matt Friedman and Sally Talley.
Talley & Son
This play takes place at the same time as Talley’s Folly on July 4th, 1944, but it was the last piece of the Talley Trilogy to be written. The play starts with a glimpse of Sally Talley running out of the house to find Matt Friedman after he has been run off by her brother, but much of the play revolves around Old Man Talley’s relationship with his eldest son, Buddy. Mr. Talley, despite his slow slide into dementia, refuses to give up ownership of his textile factory to his son and their business partner. Mr. Talley is determined to save the factory for youngest son Timmy to run when Timmy returns home from the war. The play is narrated by Timmy, who has been killed in the war, information that his family has not yet learned.
Talley's Folly plays at the Laura Pels Theatre through May 12. For more information and tickets, visit our website.
2012-2013 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Talley's Folly