THE STORY: The time is Independence Day, 1944, the place the parlor of the Talley homestead in Lebanon, Missouri. As World War II rages across the seas, the Talleys are beset with crises of a different sort. Slipping into senility, the elder Mr. Talley still has flashes of explosive lucidity, when he schemes to dispose of the local bank among heirs of his own choice, and berates his charming but spineless son, Eldon, for considering the sale of the family garment business to an eastern conglomerate. Also involved in the bickering are Eldon’s long-suffering wife, Netta; their son, Buddy, who is home on leave from the Army; his vapid wife, Olive; and Eldon’s sister, Charlotte, a defiantly free spirit who is suffering the fatal effects of radium poisoning. And, commenting on the action, unseen by the others, is the “ghost” of the second son, Timmy, already a casualty of the Pacific war, although the family has not yet learned of his death. In the end the petty antagonisms, scandals and selfishness which infuse the play are their own reward, and we are aware that a dynasty built by hard work and clear if conniving vision is about to be dismantled by lesser men who have inherited the property, but not the character, of their predecessors.
The third in the renowned cycle of plays dealing with the Talley family of Lebanon, Missouri. The action in this instance is simultaneous with that of Talley’s Folly and deals with the generation preceding that encountered in FIFTH OF JULY. Richly textured, and suffused with humor and deeply affecting compassion, the play examines a family beset with strains from within and without—and about to begin its inevitable decline. “It is Wilson’s dramatic artistry that he is able to draw us into the realm of the Talleys, encouraging us to understand the grasping fathers and sons as well as those few who can embrace a life of individuality and responsibility.” —NY Times. “Wilson’s strength is in extracting the extraordinary from the ordinary, and, in general, making it psychologically and dramatically plausible.” —NY Magazine. “…the most accomplished of Lanford Wilson’s three plays about the Talley family…” —The New Yorker.