Theatre / “Love Letters”, written by AR Gurney, directed by Kate Blackhurst. At Canberra Rep Theatre until March 26. Reviewed by LEN POWER.
“LOVE Letters”, which was first performed in the US in 1989, centres on two fictional well-to-do Americans, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III.
Covering nearly 50 years, we witness their early hopes and dreams and share their disappointments, successes and failures through their correspondence with each other as they lead their mostly separate lives.
The play needs skilled performers who can carry this two-handed play in a minimal setting. Luckily, Canberra Rep have Michael Sparks and Andrea Close, two Canberra actors with formidable experience. Seen together in last year’s electrifying “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?”, they again create believable characters as they change through the decades.
As they read letters from each other, we are drawn into their lives and hang on every word. Sparks as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III is a young, awkward boy who is drawn to Close’s smart-talking, young Melissa Gardner. As the play progresses, both actors’ skilled body language as well as their voice modulations and acute sense of timing add considerable colour to their changing characters over the years. Both performers give superb performances.
The audience is drawn into the details of the lives of these people against a background of the manners and morals of these 50 years or so in American history.
Director Kate Blackhurst has ensured that the gradual changes in the actors’ characters is well-balanced and has a believable depth. The simple setting by Andrew Kay keeps the focus clearly on the actors.
Letter-writing may be a dying art in this digital age but humans still need to communicate. The means may be different these days, but the sentiment portrayed in the play is still something we can identify with. It’s not surprising that we are spellbound and ultimately moved by these two friends as they correspond over the years.
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