There are many reasons people attend a Broadway show: the spectacle of lavish costumes and sets, the wonder of watching a favorite film that has been turned into a musical, or star power. Sometimes, it's simply to hear the powerful words of a playwright and to be transported by a story. The producers behind Love Letters offered that very thing when they opened their show on September 18 with the decision to rotate the two leads. Strip away the trappings of huge technical shows and Love Letters provides audiences a gem of a gift wrapped up in a small bow.
The power of hearing two people speak via the lost art of letter writing is something important. -- Audiences in 2014 should put down their numerous technical devices and pay close attention. There is a reason that many of the romantics of time past are captured in letters written to lovers. They were not photos or writing 'limited word' tweets. They were pouring out their heart and soul on paper in words of adoration and love. That is what author A.R. Gurney has done with his play first written in the late 80s. The story shares the story of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner as they correspond over 50 years, sharing the ups and downs of their lives with that long lost love.
While it is beautiful in its simplicity, it is complex in covering so many years in the lives of these two people. We grow to know them and care about them. Like the play/film "Same Time Next Year", this show also takes us to different points in the lives of the characters as we watch them grow and change. I also find it amazing how timeless it can be. Melissa wants them to use the phone to speak instead of writing letters; much like today's texting has replaced people connecting on the phone.
Alan and Candice Bergen recently stepped into the roles of the two loves and what a wonderful couple these two make. With careers that span multiple decades, the two have done everything from TV to film to stage. No one can deliver a monologue like Mr. Alda and I loved every word he said. He tends to stay in the book more than Ms. Bergen, yet that doesn't bother me in this production. In contrast, she uses her face throughout the performance as she looks into the audience, reacts to the letters he reads and lives in the moment as she takes us on a journey of this wonderful character. Not allowing actors to rely on movement and blocking and instead focusing on the written word makes for a glorious 90 minutes of live theater. Something like this comes along very rarely in the New York Theater scene, but the holiday season where we think of family and love is a perfect time to take in this show. You can't help but be pulled into the lives of the two characters and you'll be amazed that simply listening to people read letters could affect you in such a way. That's what makes this show so incredibly special. Audiences have nothing else to concentrate on (or be distracted by) so you have no choice than to be swept away by…love.
Up to now, my favorite romantic play has been Say Goodnight, Gracie - a one man show about George Burns. I must say, Love Letters is right up there. The amazing thing is that both of these show talk about love in a very unique way and both cause you to leave the theater thinking about your own relationships.
The show is running through February and will have other actors switching into the roles. Check out their website to see what couples are going in and give yourself the gift of stepping back in time, away from 2014 and enjoy the love that A.R. Gurney has poured onto the paper.