by Lanford Wilson
“Talley’s Folly is a play to savor and to cheer,” writes The New York Times. Set on a decaying boathouse on a quiet river in Lebanon, Missouri, two tragic yet glorious outcasts reunite on a July evening in 1944. As Matt Friedman woos Sally Talley and strives to break through her protective shell, pieces of the past come to the surface. Packed with tenderness and humor, this Pulitzer Prize winning romantic comedy will enrapture your heart and waltz through your mind for days.
Asst. Stage Manager
Tatyana de Pavloff
Talley’s Folly is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Let me tell you about Phoebe Wray. When I met her, she was 70-something years old, impish and tough-as-nails, teaching theatre history at The Boston Conservatory. She took simultaneously a personal and expansive approach to theatre history, alternating between first-person accounts of her gritty career and major movements in world history. On any given day, her lectures might include: her adventures as a young actor/director in 1960s Greenwich Village, how prostitutes invented Kabuki in 17th century Japan, her experience in the founding years of the off-off-Broadway movement and the first “gay” theatre, classical Sanskrit drama, what it was like to direct at La Mama, Indonesian shadow-puppet theatre, her unrequited love for her friend Lanford Wilson.
I don’t think she ever stopped loving him. She directed me in The Rimers of Eldritch, a Lanford Wilson play about a small community undone by gossip and prejudice. We seized any opportunity to talk to Phoebe about Lanford and what it was like in the early days, when they were all just a group of forward-thinking kids, writing plays and producing them at the legendary Caffe Cino. In this dark, magical hole-in-the-wall in Greenwich Village, playwriting was an expression of creativity free from commercial influences. Phoebe painted Caffe Cino as theatre at its purist: part hang-out, part underground coffee house illegally patched into the city’s electric grid, and entirely groundbreaking.
For a play that at its heart is about love, acceptance, and feeling like a fish out of water, it seems fitting to dedicate Talley’s Folly to Phoebe and all her Caffe Cino compatriots. Like Sally Talley and Matt Friedman, they were glorious outcasts who found a home in each other.
In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose.
LANFORD WILSON’S TALLEY TRILOGY
Talley’s Folly is one of a three plays known as The Talley Trilogy. All revolve around the wealthy Talley family of Lebanon, Missouri. Each of the three plays stands beautifully on its own, while also weaving the threads of the Talley family history into an intricate tapestry. For instance, while the play you are about to see, Talley’s Folly, is unfolding in the old boathouse, just up the hill in the house, the rest of the Talleys are grappling with their future in the play Talley & Son. In each play, we hear suggestions of the related story unfolding just yards away. Talley & Son starts off with Sally learning that Matt Friedman has arrived. She rushes angrily out of her house, slamming the door on that play, and makes her way to the boathouse of Talley’s Folly. Here’s what happens in Talley & Son right before you see her at today’s performance. As for Sally’s delightfully unconventional Aunt Lottie, you’ll learn about her later…
(Sally runs down the stairs followed by Lottie.)
LOTTIE: Sally. Sally. I thought you locked yourself in your room.
SALLY: Oh, I am so mad, I really am.
LOTTIE: Sally, Buddy and Olive don’t have the sense…
SALLY: Oh, I am very angry with both of them, and Mother, too.
LOTTIE: Mr. Friedman was as polite and gentlemanly as anyone could ask.
SALLY: Most of all I am angry with Matt Friedman.
LOTTIE: It wasn’t Matt—
SALLY: How dare he get himself into a fight with my brother.
LOTTIE: Matt wasn’t fighting; he was going to sit on the porch and wait for you. Buddy chased him off with a shotgun.
SALLY: Oh, Lord.
LOTTIE: I hit Buddy with a broom, and I’m glad.
SALLY: Why did Matt come down here in the first place? He knows how we feel about him. Oh!
LOTTIE: He said he wanted to talk to your father.
SALLY: Aunt Lottie, I wish you would get all that romantic twaddle out of your mind.
SALLY: If there was a place to move to, I’d move there tonight.
LOTTIE: I know, darling.
OLIVE: (Coming down the stairs.) Sally, I just got June to sleep. You’re going to wake her right up.
SALLY: Well, I wouldn’t want to do that.
LOTTIE: Where are you going, Sally?
SALLY: Out. Out. I’m going out.
LOTTIE: Sally, stay here and talk to me.
SALLY: I am very angry with this entire household. (She slams the door.)
And indeed, she has reason to be. What about the third play in the trilogy? It’s called Fifth of July and takes place 30 years later. It was a question asked by the actor playing the 64-year-old Sally Talley in Fifth of July that inspired Wilson to write the other Talley plays. Lanford Wilson recalls, “[she] came to me during the rehearsals of Fifth of July and asked what Matt had been like; what he looked like and sounded like. Sally spends so much of the play reminiscing about him, she wanted a specific image to call up as she talks about their life together….That was the genesis of Talley’s Folly. Imagining Matt and Sally on a date – this big, sexy, clumsy Jew coming from St. Louis down to Lebanon, Missouri, where nobody had ever seen a Jew before – was very exciting. I knew immediately that I wanted this to be unlike anything I had written. It would be much lighter, with a gloriously happy ending. But I also knew that nobody would trust me. I had written so many bloodbaths, that the audience would be sitting there saying, ‘He’s gonna kill her. He’s gonna finally get mad and strangle her.’ So at the opening of the play I had to reassure the audience that this really was going to end up a valentine.”