Some friendships are lifelong. Some friendships are incredibly complicated. And, some rare friendships are both of these things. It is one of these rare types of friendships that is showcased in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, onstage now through North Carolina Theatre under the direction of Guy Stroman.
Gurney’s show is a unique one. Instead of being a standard play, it is simply two characters, on a stage, each sharing the letters they’ve written to one another during a friendship spanning several decades. The two characters in question are the wild, troubled Melissa Gardner (Sandy Duncan) and the stable, strong Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (Ira David Wood III).
These two characters come from very different families and end up having totally opposite lives. However, their strong friendship, their undying letters, and their on-again/off-again trysts and tries with romantic love bond the two together in powerful ways.
Gurney’s script is strong and interesting. Its greatest strength lies in the two very real characters created and showcased onstage. The letters are also believably well-written and revealing of the characters without being too obvious. With that said, though, the script almost loses something by being brought to stage. It is so dense and detailed that it seems as if one should be curled up with the letters in book form, rather than watching two actors, both seated and reading, reciting them. In fact, one wonders if anything is really gained by having the letters read out loud and onstage; reading them oneself would appear more intimate and more gripping.
While the form in which the story is told may not work for all viewers, the actors do a good job with the material given. Wood is likeable and appealing in his role, and, despite the literal distance between the two characters onstage, he manages to share an easy chemistry and camaraderie with Duncan’s Melissa. Duncan, likewise, is endearing, adding humor and the right touches of sadness to her character.
And, while the story is one that will stick with viewers, the delivery method called for by the script will fall a bit flat for modern audiences. This is definitely an interesting and unique show, but it leaves one wondering if Gurney chose the right form for this powerful story.
North Carolina Theatre presents LOVE LETTERS, starring Sandy Duncan and Ira David Wood III, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16-19, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21 in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $29.22-$90.22, except $29 college-student tickets.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/803995.
2017-18 SEASON: https://nctheatre.com/show-season/201718-season.
NCT NEWS RELEASE: https://nctheatre.com/blog/show-spotlight-love-letters.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
Love Letters (1988 New York Public Library, 1989 Off-Broadway, and 1989 Broadway play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=996 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.argurney.com/small_casts.html#loveletters (official web page), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/1202 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/love-letters-5590 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Letters_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
A.R. Gurney (Buffalo, NY-born playwright, 1930-2017): http://www.argurney.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/627 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ar-gurney-84220 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0348672/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._R._Gurney (Wikipedia).
Guy Stroman (Terrell, TX-born New York director): http://guystroman.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/11060 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/guy-stroman-92974 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0834890/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/guy.stroman (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.