Issue April 11, 2006

Theater Review – Love Letters

BY DANA ADAMS

Last Friday night, the streets were clear and the whole city was apparently at home waiting for hail and tornadoes. Everyone, that is, except the 15 or so of us who braved the weather to see Louisville Repertory Company mount a production of A.R. Gurney’s play “Love Letters.” Other than me and my companion, it was pretty much ushers and family. Even so, the cast of two rose to the occasion and treated us to a lovely evening.

People tend to either adore or despise “Love Letters.” I fall into the former category, being a sucker for a tearjerker. Those who don’t like it often say it’s simplistic and dated. There is some truth to this. The play is based on the 50-year correspondence between an upright overachiever and a fragile, damaged artist, both privileged and both, at times, rather unlikable. Also, the whole premise of writing an actual letter seems completely archaic today.

That said, the play’s charm actually lies in its simplicity. Two actors, a desk and a chair, with nary a face-to-face interaction, pretty much makes you focus. There are no extraneous efforts to hold your attention; the words are it. And on this count, it succeeds. Ably directed by Rich Galey, both actors bring their characters to life and make us want the best for them, even if we already know it’s not going to happen. Aaron Stover did a fine job as Andy, but the show belongs to the always-excellent Mickey Ruby as Melissa. She gives subtle voice to Melissa’s pain and helps us see the lonely person inside the hard exterior.