By A.R. Gurney
Written by prolific award-winning American playwright A.R. (Albert Ramsdell) Gurney in 1989, Love Letters reminds us of the loss represented by the decline in letter writing in the age of the txt msg.
Born to wealth and position, its WASP characters, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, begin their correspondence as childhood friends and continue to exchange letters through their separate and disparate lives until Melissa’s death some forty years later.
Andy’s carefully structured and conservative life proceeds from college to Yale and law school, naval service, law practice and politics. He marries once and raises three children who will probably follow his carefully trodden path.
Melissa’s chaotic journey provides the counterpoint. She drops out of college, fails as an artist, marries more than once, divorces, becomes estranged from her children, turns to the bottle and gigolos and dies prematurely.
We see all these facets of their respective lives through their letters. They share the thoughts and feelings lovers should (and sometimes do), but only for a brief period. Their true relationship is consummated too late, and only after Melissa’s death does Andy acknowledge to himself (through a letter to her mother) that he has loved Melissa all his life.
The play is written to be read, as letters are. The players, Brian Cannon and Beverly Wood, sit side by side to deliver the well- paced repartee the letters provide a line, a passage, a whole epistle informative, touchingly funny and often very moving. But the side-by-side setting does not serve to establish an appropriate ‘distance’ between the correspondents.
Without movement, the impact of the play depends on the voices, faces and a limited use of props. Beverly Wood adapts to these demands more effectively than Brian Cannon, but together they deliver a satisfying and rewarding evening.
The production deserves a longer run, and The Centenary Group is to be commended for staging this ‘one night stand.’
Directed by Gary O’Neil