(Masterpieces of American Literature)

This play, produced relatively late in Lanford Wilson’s Talley cycle, actually had its first Broadway airing in 1981, when it was produced as A Tale Told. This early version of the play was not a notable success, although it received some encouraging critical attention. After it closed on Broadway, it enjoyed a continued run Off-Broadway.

Wilson has a habit of working and reworking plays that do not please him, and he reworked A Tale Told for four years, bringing it to Broadway with the new title Talley and Son. The play has a complicated plot, but Wilson provides one character, the ghost of Timmy Talley, to serve the function of the chorus in Greek plays, that of giving the audience the details that they need to follow the action.

The play opens at sunset on the fourth of July, 1944. Timmy Talley’s ghost returns to his home on a rise overlooking Lebanon, Missouri, Wilson’s birthplace. Timmy, a member of the United States Marine Corps, was granted a furlough to come home from the South Pacific, where he was stationed, to attend the funeral of his grandfather, Calvin. Ironically, the old man has rallied to the point that he sneaks out in his son’s Packard automobile for a drive. Timmy was killed before he was able to leave the battle area. His brother, Buddy, who is serving in the armed forces in Italy, having received a similar furlough, arrived home a day earlier.

The play’s first act juggles...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Barnett, Gene A. Lanford Wilson. Boston: Twayne, 1987.

Bryer, Jackson R., ed. Lanford Wilson: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1994.

Busby, Mark. Lanford Wilson. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1987.

Dasgupta, Gautam. “Lanford Wilson.” In American Playwrights: A Critical Survey, edited by Bonnie Marranca and Gautam Dasgupta. New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1981.

Dean, Anne M. Discovery and Invention: The Urban Plays of Lanford Wilson. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994.

Gussow, Mel. “A Playwright at Home with Life’s Outsiders.” The New York Times, September 15, 2002, p. AR1.

Herman, William. Understanding Contemporary American Drama. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Hornsby, Richard Mark. “Miscarriages of Justice.” The Hudson Review 56 (Spring, 2003): 161-167.

Schvey, Henry I. “Images of the Past in the Plays of Lanford Wilson.” In Essays on Contemporary American Drama. Edited by Hedwig Bok and Albert Wertheim. Munich: Max Huber Verlag, 1981.

Williams, Philip Middleton. A Comfortable House: Lanford Wilson, Marshall W. Mason, and the Circle Repertory Theatre. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1993.