A.R. Gurney's play about two friends who shared their
thoughts, emotions and lives by writing letters to each other
for five decades debuted on Broadway in 1989, before the advent
of cell phones and text messages.
But critics said a noteworthy revival that opened on Thursday
night is as touching as it was more than two decades ago.
"After all these years, Gurney’s bittersweet love letter to an
oddly matched couple who maintain an epistolary friendship for
half a century can still tug at the old heartstrings," said
Variety, the trade magazine.
The Hollywood Reporter concurred, calling it "a rare work whose
emotional richness requires no embellishment in order to become
a full-bodied theatrical experience."
Dual Tony winner Brian Dennehy ("Long Day's Journey Into Night"
and "Death of a Salesman") and Mia Farrow, best known for films
such as "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "The Great Gatsby" play the
two well-heeled friends whose lives, although apart, remained
They are the first in a rotating cast of actors to appear in the
limited-engagement play. Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Candice
Bergen, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Angelica Huston and Martin
Sheen will take on the roles in later performances.
Dennehy, 76, is Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, a conservative,
upright, studious boy whose Ivy League education leads him to a
career in law and politics.
Farrow, 69, plays Melissa Gardner, a wealthy, rebellious, free
spirit, whose parents divorce when she is young. While Andy
grows up in a tight-knit family, which she envies, Melissa is
raised by an alcoholic mother and shuffled off to camp and her
grandmother's house during school holidays.
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The two actors are seated side-by-side at a table facing the
audience on a stark stage as they read the love letters that began
when they were seven-year-old classmates.
Through a correspondence that starts with birthday party
invitations, thank you notes and valentines they bolster each other
through lonely stints at boarding school, challenges in college,
failed romances, accomplishments and disappointments, marriages and
children with other people, and their own brief affair.
"The performances of both actors deepen and evolve as their
characters do," said the New York Times. But the newspaper reserved
special praise for Farrow.
"Ms. Farrow gives a remarkable performance, so vividly felt and
fully realized that you forget that she is merely reciting notes and
letters," it said. "Her portrayal cast a heartbreaking spell as
Melissa's fragility slowly emerges."
The New York Daily News said that with less able actors "Love
Letters" could have ended up a pity party.
"With this duo, though, the play emerges as sweet, elegant and
touching, as two lives come together in vibrant focus. The evening
also makes the case for the value of letter-writing."
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
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