On Tuesday evening John Munn and Shannon Burch gave a live two-solo production of “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney, to only two people: Peg and me. I knew of the play, but had never seen it performed. thesubtimes.com/2020/06/08/love-letters-are-being-opened-and-read-in-lakewood/
Here is a brief introduction:
“Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, both born to wealth and position, are childhood friends whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards. Romantically attached, they continue to exchange letters through the boarding school and college years—where Andy goes on to excel at Yale and law school, while Melissa flunks out of a series of “good schools.’” – goodreads.com/book/show/1623045.Love_Letters
John Munn, the Artistic Managing Director of Lakewood Playhouse, Shannon Burch and his production crew have a staged a performance that maintains the emotional intimacy of this wonderful play while social distancing is maintained. This allows the audience the joy of experiencing young love to maturity, friendship, secret moments, regrets, and sorrows while being social distancing. Lakewood Playhouse has been thoroughly deep-cleaned by a professional cleaning company and will be cleaned after each performance. This assures that all surfaces, including the stage and backstage areas, all seating, the lobby and all three bathrooms are clean. Audience members are three seats apart and a skipped row between patrons is mandatory. The audience is assured that their safety has been a primary focus of this production.
Here are two samples from the correspondence between Andy and Melissa:
Andy: “Andrew Makepeace Ladd, the Third, accepts with pleasure the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Channing Gardner for a birthday party in honor of their daughter Melissa on April 19th, 1937 at half past three o’clock.”
Melissa: “Dear Andy: Thank you for the birthday present. I have a lot of Oz books, but not ‘The Lost Princess of Oz.’ What made you give me that one? Sincerely yours, Melissa.”
Andy: “I’m answering your letter about the book. When you came into second grade with that stuck-up nurse, you looked like a lost princess.”
Melissa: “I don’t believe what you wrote. I think my mother told your mother to get that book. I like the pictures more than the words. Now let’s stop writing letters.”
Andy: “This is just me, 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,” – A.R. Gurney, Love Letters
The play explores the budding love between Andy and Melissa from grade school all the way though college and their mature years. Melissa lives an unhappy life with absent parents and lovers while seeking intimacy through love, first with Andy and then with many others. Her multiple abandonments and isolation in various boarding schools furthers her isolation. Andy, on the other hand, has a stable home with loving parents and siblings. He’s happy and secure, as Melissa says, he’s “growing up to be a real Republican” with the attending qualities of responsibility, respect and belief in the goodness of the world.
Over the years many pairs of well-known film stars have worked their magic with live productions of Love Letters. Here is a special treat featuring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal.
Please, visit Lakewood Playhouse for more information. We will all breathe a sigh of relief when this touching production can be shared live with Lakewood and the surrounding communities. – lakewoodplayhouse.com/