I traded my first “love letter” with Jason Forrester in 2nd grade. We passed notes back-and-forth in Mrs. Black’s class, hoping not to get caught but elated when we did and had to sit in detention alone together. I had forgotten all about that memory until I saw “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney (The Dining Room) at the fabulous Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Opening September 18th with the ageless Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) as Melissa Gardner, a precocious, wild child who time reveals to be damaged and fragile, with an incredible sensitivity, whose letters from Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, embodied by “the man” Brian Dennehy (Tony Award winner for lead in Death of a Salesman), whose voice remains commanding and defies mortality, provide the only real sense of stability in her whimsical and sometimes chaotic life.
Thought to be a dream job for actors who sit upon the stage alone as they trade turns reading five decades worth of letters, I am unconvinced if anyone claims it to be an easy task. The trip that the playwright and these two stellar actors took me on, under the direction of Gregory Mosher (former director of the Lincoln Center Theater) was an epic journey of missed opportunities until the eventual realization of one true thing. My heart was broken into a million pieces. I can hardly wait to do it again! And I will with each of the pairs who will grace the stage over the next three months: Carol Burnett, Candice Bergen, Diana Rigg, and Angelica Huston coupled with Brian Dennehy, Alan Alda, Stacy Keach, and Martin Sheen.A simple set designed by John Lee Beatty, with Jane Greenwood doing costume, Peter Kaczorowski lighting, and Scott Lehrer sound, these professionals have obviously honed their craft, practicing incredible self-restraint, doing nothing to compete with the artistry of the actors’ voices nor the sentiment of two people experiencing a lifetime of emotions, experiences, and love through the letters they exchanged. Thank you for your subtlety. And thanks to Karen Armstrong, stage manager, for keeping it all on task. This show is for everyone who has ever dared to put pen to paper to scroll “I like you. Do you like me?”
Love Letters officially opened on September 18th, after previews starting September 13th and will run through February 1st at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.
Review By: Michele Seven
Photo By: Todd Heisler