Theater Review: Love Letters’ still a compelling story
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | August 26,2014
Jim Lowe / Staff photo
Sarah Brock and Brooke Pearson in Unadilla Theatre’s “Love Letters.”
MARSHFIELD — A.R. Gurney’s long-term romance, “Love Letters,” premiered in 1988, yet it is anything but dated — proven by Unadilla Theatre’s compelling production.
Long a favorite of famous actors, as there are no lines to memorize, this two-person drama can be completely different with each pair of performers. In the Unadilla production Friday, directed by Alex Brown, Brooke Pearson as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Sarah Brock as Melissa Gardner tell a story that is intimate, funny and deeply touching, as well as timeless.
“Love Letters” is a series of letters written by Melissa and Andy over 50 years, beginning as preteens and concluding with Melissa’s death. The two actors sit at a desk reading the correspondence, and it’s amazingly effective. The letters chronicle their lives, sometimes parallel, less often together. And it works.
Andy and Melissa both come from upper middle class families, but Melissa is genuinely rich. Andy comes from a stereotypical Republican (old-style moderate, that is) couple, while Melissa’s parents are more liberal — and divorced. Despite Andy’s priggishness and Melissa’s free spirit — or because of it — the two bond.
Andy’s family is rigid but loving, while Melissa’s is largely absent or drunk. But the two are growing up together and look to each other for solace as well as love. Their attempts at romance are largely futile, but there is no absence of love between the two.
Andy progresses from prep school to Yale to Harvard Law School to becoming a U.S. senator with a WASP wife and kids in the suburbs. Melissa takes a more circuitous route to being a sometimes successful but mostly unsuccessful artist. But throughout, the two remain loyal, with deep love. It’s a deeply touching and very believable story.
Pearson was the perfect prig as Andy, letting the momentary moments of freedom be joyful, and very funny. Brock was a natural as the free spirit, showing Melissa’s deep tenderness with Andy and her own disappointment with herself.
More importantly, Brock and Pearson interacted — without actually connecting — in a most entertaining and often deeply touching performance. Unadilla’s “Love Letters” is beautiful storytelling.
Unadilla Theatre presents “Love Letters,” by A.R. Gurney, Aug. 14-30 at its old playhouse, 501 Blachly Road in Marshfield. Remaining performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 28-30. Tickets are $20, $10 for 12 and younger; call 802-456-8968, or email Unadilla@pshift.com. For information, visit www.unadilla.org.