“Love Letters” is a love letter to letters themselves, the kind we used to send, ink on paper, folded twice and neatly fit into an envelope. We sent them, received them, but mostly we anticipated them.
Dan Lauria and Wendie Malick, seated at their separate writing desks, render the handwritten voices of their iconic characters, Andrew Makepeace Ladd the Third, and Melissa Gardner, with subtlety, humor, and honesty.
The actors generously donated their time on three successive nights in a benefit for New Jersey Repertory Company to help raise funds for the acquisition of additional, larger space in the same town of Long Branch. Known for its many world premieres that go places, NJ Rep enlisted a theater tradition this time in the often-staged “Love Letters” to which these two actors paid homage with the excellence of their performances.
Malick gives us the playfully rebellious Melissa Gardner in all her colors: appealing, witty, seductive, coy, painfully wise, reluctant, prescient, confident, unraveling.
Lauria is a perfectly honest Andy, unafraid to take pleasure in small things, possessed by his longing, obedient, devoted, emotional, ambitious in expected ways, expressing his unknowing genius through his Parker 51 fountain pen.
Andy says it best: “This is just me, the way I write, the way my writing is, the way I want to be to you, giving myself to you across a distance not keeping or retaining any part of it for myself, giving this piece of myself to you totally, and you can tear me up and throw me out, or keep me, and read me today.”
Together they find and lose each other through the passages of life and across the pages of a 50-year correspondence.
It’s hard to imagine it being done better. The audience was brought to the edge of tears.
by A. R. Gurney
with Dan Lauria and Wendie Malick