By Vicki Weisfeld
If you’re looking for a show that will ease you comfortably back into the theater, the George Street Playhouse has found the perfect vehicle: Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise. This romantic comedy won the 2020 Helen Hayes award for best new play, and this lively production is directed by GSP artistic director David Saint. Of course, 2020 being what it was, hardly anyone has seen it. The story is based on Ludwig’s parents’ epistolary courtship during World War II, and the best word to describe it is charming.
In 1942, the parents of Jack Ludwig (played by Bill Army) and Louise Rabiner (Amelia Pedlow) are friends. It occurs to them that their children—now in their twenties—should meet. Jack is a military doctor stationed in Oregon, and Louise is an aspiring Broadway actor and dancer. The doctor indulges his parents and writes the actress, and a regular, increasingly warm correspondence ensues. As we all know, the road to true love is never smooth, and when two people have never met in person, when one of them ends up being stationed overseas for D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, and when the other starts to achieve professional success and male adulation, well . . .
Pedlow has numerous off-Broadway credits and had the role of Louise in the world premiere of Dear Jack, Dear Louise at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Army’s most notable Broadway role was in the original company of The Band’s Visit, and he also has numerous off-Broadway, television and film credits. In a play with only two characters, much depends on how strongly they inhabit their roles and the chemistry between them—a job made harder in this play because they communicate through the written word, not the telling glance. Yet, their growing affection for each other shines through convincingly.
As each one reads (that is, speaks) the words of the letter being written, it was interesting to watch the recipient’s reactions. One of the funniest moments was when Louise told Jack about a visit to her parents in Brooklyn and meeting his parents there. The expression of shock and dismay on his face was priceless.
Production credits to James Youmans (sets and projection design) for an elegantly simple design with just the right touches, Lisa Zinni (costumes), Joe Saint (lighting), Scott Killian (composer, sound design), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design), and Kristin Pfeifer (Production Stage Manager). We enjoyed the mood-setting 1940’s soundtrack before the show and during intermission too.
Travel prevented our getting to the theater for the production’s opening in late October, but it is on stage at the beautiful new New Brunswick Performing Arts Center for several more weeks, until November 21. Tickets available here or by calling 732-246-7717. Compliments to the theater for taking patrons’ safety into account with the mask and proof-of-vaccination status requirements.