Lanford Wilson’s romantic comedy Talley’s Folly is the second of three plays in what came to be known as Wilson’s Talley Family series. The first play in the saga, 5th of July (later renamed Fifth of July), takes place in 1977, as members of the Talley family struggle with capitalism and the Vietnam War. Among the characters is the recently widowed Aunt Sally, who values the family home more than she values money. When the actress playing Sally in the original production of Fifth of July asked Wilson for help in understanding her character, he wrote Talley’s Folly to show how Sally and her husband Matt became a couple in 1944. Two years later Wilson added a third episode to the story, Talley & Son, first produced in 1981.
Talley’s Folly shows one evening in the courtship of two unlikely lovers, Sally Talley and Matt Friedman. Sally is from a conservative, small-town, wealthy family of bigoted Protestants, and Matt is a Jewish accountant twelve years older than Sally. The story of how they become brave enough to reveal their most painful secrets touched audiences and critics, and the play’s Broadway run was a great success. First produced in 1979, the play was nominated for several Tony Awards and won the Pulitzer Prize and other awards in 1980. More than two decades after its first production, Talley’s Folly is frequently staged and is considered one of Wilson’s most hopeful and affirming plays.