T alley’s Folly is a wonderful little show, perfectly situated outside on a lovely summer’s evening,” points out Oak Park Festival Theatre’s current board president, Joyce Porter. “This romantic comedy is another modern classic, like Picnic by William Inge last summer, that works well in beautiful Austin Gardens. The play immediately pulls the audience in with its warmth, grace and intimacy. It’s the perfect contrast to our other offering of the season, the soon-to-open Robin Hood. This show features only two characters and is set during the 4th of July weekend in 1944, during World War II.”

In case you are very young or have simply forgotten, Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly was a very popular show about two and a half decades ago. It won not only the 1980 Pulitzer Prize but also the coveted New York Drama Critics Circle Award as Best Play of the Season.

Tonight and tomorrow night, June 13 and 14, Oak Park Festival Theatre will offer two nicely priced preview performances of Talley’s Folly ($10 tickets.) The show officially opens this Friday evening and will eventually be running in tandem with its “big brother” production, Robin Hood (they’re taking a break from Shakespeare this summer).

Talley’s Folly, the second of three plays in what came to be known as Lanford Wilson’s Talley Family Trilogy, was actually the personal favorite of playwright Wilson. He often claimed it to be a “sweet valentine” that it is “more perfect than anything I’ve ever written.” The unconventional romance depicts the awkward, often even abrasive courtship of two very different people, Matt Friedman (played by David Girolmo), a never-married, bookish, middle-aged Jewish accountant, and Sally Talley (Maggie Graham), age 31, a strong-willed nurses’ aide who’s already spinsterish yet unhappy with her lot. Sally’s conservative, bigoted Missouri Protestant family dislikes Matt’s Jewishness, finding him “more dangerous than Roosevelt himself.” Yet these two refreshingly human and imperfect characters gradually let down their defenses and open up to one another, learning each other’s innermost secrets and seizing the chance to find love in very uncertain times.

If memory serves, the entire play takes place in a deserted old Gothic-style boathouse.

The first Lanford Wilson play portraying the Talley family was “The Fifth of July,” set in 1977, just after the Viet Nam War. It featured the recently widowed Aunt Sally-the one being courted over three decades earlier in Talley’s Folly.

The play, directed by Michael Weber, is considered one of Wilson’s most upbeat and life-affirming works.

In recent seasons Oak Park Festival Theatre has expanded its seasons beyond Shakespeare to mount more recent American “summer classics” by Arthur Miller and William Inge. Talley’s Folly sounds like it may be equally as fulfilling as those well-received productions.

On Thursday, June 21, Festival Theatre will host “Theatre Thursday.” The $35 ticket includes a picnic dinner and entertainment by the Lakeside Pride Band. The event is part of a Chicago-area theater promotion.

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Doug Deuchler

Doug Deuchler has been reviewing local theater and delving into our history for Wednesday Journal for decades. He is alsoa retired teacher and school librarian who is also a stand-up comic, tour guide/docent...