Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To A.R. With Love - Love Letters - Play Review

Love Letters - Brooks Atkinson Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by A.R. Gurney, Directed by Gregory Mosher 


Who knew a theatrical show with only two actors sitting on stage, reading from binders, could be so beautifully moving and emotionally stirring? Never having seen A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, I did not realize the love letters being read were part of an overall series between two (fictional) people, from childhood, all the way thru decades of letter writing. We first encounter this child-like attempt at formal letters between a well poised boy, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, and a rich girl, Melissa Gardner, and we hear the countless letters sent back and forth between the two as they navigate childhood, teenagedom, young love, jealousy, heartbreak, and more. The slow build of emotions and character development is wonderfully revealed through each subsequent letters, and sometimes in pauses in the lack of letters. This theatrical classic manages to tell a well-told tale of two people navigating the world as they try to make a connection, and while the plot would feel common and somewhat clichéd in a more classic telling, Gurney manages to make the story of these two people feel fresh and new.

As often with this show that requires little actor preparation, the current Broadway revival already has an impressive cast list scheduled to play Andy and Melissa including Diana Rigg, Stacy Keach, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen (with Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy and Carol Burnett already having been in this production). Currently, TV icons Candace Bergen and Alan Alda have taken up the seats on stage to play Melissa and Andy.

Alan Alda seems naturally perfect for the role of the well intentioned, well behaved, slightly reserved Andy and Alda's calmness has a soothing quality. In the more flaky, fascinating, misguided Melissa, Candace Bergen, while knowingly a strong and terrific actress, still surprised me in her terrific, heartbreaking, and funny performance as Melissa. With glares and the roll of the eyes, in voice inflections and perfect pauses, Bergen's Melissa is a fascinating and reeling performance all while simply reading from the script while sitting in a chair. Bergen and Alda's rapport with each other is so genuine and at ease, I'd be fascinated to see how other actors pull these performances off, which I guess is one of the enduring fascinations with this surprisingly moving and heartfelt play.

Candace Bergen and Alan Alda are scheduled to appear until Dec. 18th 2014. Diana Rigg and Stacy Keach will appear Dec. 19th to Jan 9th 2015 and will be followed by Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.

Photo by Carol Rosegg
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