by A.R. Gurney
BROADWAY’S SMASH HIT
Featuring Holly Turner and Brian Dooley
Directed by Wayne Paquette
Stage Managed by Joan Wyatt
Photographs by Mat Simpson Photography http://matsimpson.co/
Poster and Programs by Tynan Boyd
Presented at the 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival
Playing at the Telus Phone Museum
Nominated for 1 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award
Outstanding Fringe Actor (Brian Dooley)
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“This is just me, me the way I write, the way my writing is, the way I want to be to you… 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, tomorrow, any time you want until you die.”
A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters traces the lifelong correspondence of a staid, dutiful lawyer, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, and a lively, unstable artist, Melissa Gardner.
Andrew and Melissa begin their long, bittersweet relationship as childhood friends whose fifty year correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards. As the years pass, Andrew and Melissa continue to write letters to each other – reflecting on the good and bad times that shape who they become.
Blarney Productions presents Love Letters, a smash hit off and on Broadway, that perfectly captures the trials and tribulations of loving someone with such precision of detail and depth of feeling that only Gurney can command.
“Delightful… entertaining… the most charming play to date of a charming writer”
– New York Observer
“Exhilarating, funny, and moving”
– The Wall Street Journal
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The Edmonton Sun – Colin MacLean
A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters first appeared in New York in 1989. It wasn’t a rip roaring hit at the time but it has gone on to become one of the most produced plays in the repertoire. It’s simple to mount, features two actors, requires no memorization — in fact it requires no movement — and has become a vehicle for A-listers and aging movie stars.
The actors sit on stage in two solitudes and read letters from two people who are obviously (but unstatedly) in love, having spent a life time apart. The entire play is composed of the letters they write. Gurney is a master of subtle interplay and we learn all we have to know about them through their passionate words.
The current Edmonton production comes from busy Fringe director Wayne Paquette who understands that this is a play that depends on vocal inflection, the subtle misdirection of words that are saying one thing and mean something else and the tiny pauses that reveal the heartbreak that seeps through the cracks.
Paquette has cast two of Edmonton’s best actors in the lead roles and this is certainly not a play to be given to lesser talents. Brian Dooley is Alexander Makepiece Ladd III. He’s not poor but neither is his family in the top one-percent. He’s solid, hardworking and kind of ordinary. Melissa Gardener (Holly Turner) is rich, capricious, fierce, rebellious and unstable – “dancing at the edge of the abyss.” They meet as children but are sent off to different private schools and spend much of the rest of their lives away from each other. But never so far that their relationship can’t continue with the help of the postal service.
The two actors capture the flighty interests of youth – particularly Turner who is all over the place. We follow her through middle age dissolution and into her alcohol and pill-driven later years. Dooley carries off the tougher job as his character is more the stolid overachiever. But it is all there in this fine actor’s performance. They are great readers, intelligent and animated, and through their riveting delivery we really get to know the two fascinating, star-crossed lovers they play.
The melancholy of missed opportunities suffuses the performances until the inevitable end when, for the first time, in a heart stopping instant, they turn and look at each other. And we are left sadly wondering what might have happened in a different world.
5 SUNS out of 5
VUE WEEKLY – Mel Priestley
A R Gurney’s script is a natural choice for a Fringe show. First, it’s simply beautifully written and touchingly poignant (it was nominated for a Pulitzer). But almost more important for two busy actors (in this case, Holly Turner and Brian Dooley) is the fact that it follows an epistolary format: the two characters are sitting at a table reading a series of letters sent to one another over the past half century—thus negating the need for memorizing any lines. That kind of set-up might lend itself to laziness on the part of the performers, but not here: the pair successfully captures a wide breadth of nuance and emotion as we follow their tumultuous, ultimately heartbreaking relationship.
The show is also a kind of love letter to the act of letter-writing itself—though deeper analysis is completely optional as this is foremost a beautiful, bittersweet love story capably performed by two veteran local actors.
4 STARS out of 5