Sentimental but often acerbic, minimalist but very rooted in realism, Love Letters portrays two friends, the artistic Melissa Gardner and the eloquent Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, who exchange notes, cards and letters with each other for over 50 years. It’s designed to be performed by two actors reading the letters from their seats, which makes it incredibly simple to produce – no set, two actors who don’t even have to memorize their lines – and as such has been incredibly popular in regional theatres. Hire two stars, hold just a handful of rehearsals, and start selling tickets!
It doesn’t hurt that this deceptively simple play is actually pretty darn good, a detailed look at two very different WASPs falling in and out of love. This is a world that Gurney knows well, and has chronicled better than any other playwright this side of Thornton Wilder.
For the first stretch of this Broadway run, Melissa is played by Mia Farrow, Andrew by Brian Dennehy. Farrow emphasizes the flightier side of this wild child – a choice that doesn’t really work for me, but I have to admit that Farrow commits to it and plays it for all its worth. Dennehy’s interpretation suits me much better; in his hands, Andrew’s love of writing (letters and otherwise) comes across as deeply sincere. No stuffed shirt he, but rather a sensitive and smart soul.
Love Letters is a rewarding evening of theatre, but I wouldn’t call it a deeply satisfying one. Worth seeing with these two, anyway.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.