Talley & Son

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Talley & Son
Cover of the paperback edition published by Hill and Wang, July 1986
Written by Lanford Wilson
Date premiered September 24, 1985
Place premiered Circle Repertory Theater
New York City
Original language English
Series Talley Family trilogy
Subject A father and son battle to control the future of the family business
Genre Drama
Setting Lebanon, Missouri
July 4, 1944

Talley & Son is a play by Lanford Wilson, the third in his trilogy focusing on the Talley family of Lebanon, Missouri. It is set on July 4, 1944, the same day as Talley's Folly and thirty-three years prior to the events in Fifth of July.

The play originally was produced as A Tale Told in 1981.[1] Wilson was unhappy with the work and revised it substantially over the next four years. In Talley & Son, the dysfunctional family is debating the murky future of the family-owned businesses, a local bank and textile factory that seem destined to be absorbed by a conglomerate once World War II ends. Eldon Talley took control of the enterprises when his favored, elder brother died young, and although he has been successful, his miserly, bigoted father Calvin, who is expected to die at any moment, despises him and his efforts to defy his authority. Other characters include Eldon's spinster sister Lottie, a cynical rebel dying of industrial radium poisoning; his complacent wife Netta; their daughter Sally, who is dating a Jewish accountant; and Avalaine Platt, a mysterious visitor who claims she is Eldon's illegitimate daughter. Quietly observing the scene is the spirit of Timmy, Eldon and Netta's son, who has just been killed in battle in the South Pacific and has returned home a few hours before his parents receive the telegram announcing his death.

Directed by Marshall W. Mason, the play opened on September 24, 1985 at the off-Broadway Circle Repertory Theater in Greenwich Village and ran for 42 performances. The cast included Farley Granger as Eldon, Edward Seamon as Calvin, Joyce Reehling Christopher as Lottie, Helen Stenborg as Netta, Trish Hawkins as Sally, Lisa Emery as Viola, and Robert Macnaughton as Timmy. Both Granger and Stenborg won the Obie Award for their performances.

In his review in the New York Times, Frank Rich said the play "is, for much of its length, amusing entertainment." He continued, "But if Mr. Wilson has been, on other occasions, a persuasive heir to Tennessee Williams, in this play he remains an unconvincing stand-in for Lillian Hellman," and called Talley & Son "a Little Foxes without bite but with perhaps even more plot." He added, "Still, for all the flaws that remain from A Tale Told, the improvements in Talley & Son are real. What was a dull, superficial play is now a superficial play that clicks smartly along until mid-Act II. In addition to tightening, focusing and clarifying (one need no longer refer constantly to the family tree in the program), Mr. Wilson has added a goodly share of funny lines . . . Even so, as far as Talley & Son is concerned, the honorable time may have come for Mr. Wilson to give up the ghost." [2]


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