‘Love Letters’ showcases unique storytelling stylePublished 9:46am Thursday, June 19, 2014
BUCHANAN — Opening on June 20 at the Tin Shop Theatre, “Love Letters” promises to provide audiences with an in-depth look into the evolving relationship between two characters: Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd, III.
As an epistolary play—one that tells its story through letters written by the two main characters—“Love Letters” takes an approach to storytelling that is not usually seen on stage.
In fact, the play was originally written by A.R. Gurney as a short story that he submitted to “The New Yorker.” However, as the author explains on his website, the magazine turned the story down, stating that they didn’t publish plays.
That misconception over the manuscript led to a trial staging of “Love Letters” at the New York Public Library in 1988, with Gurney playing opposite Holland Taylor. Since then, the play has become quite popular, even having been named a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Now, audiences in southwest Michigan have the opportunity to view the play, which has starred such well-known actors as Christopher Reeves, Christopher Walken, Lynne Redgrave and Swoozi Kurtz in past performances.
In the Tin Shop production, playing Melissa will be Kris Behr, who has acted in a number of Tin Shop performances since she first began doing community theater in 1998.
“It’s a really well-written show,” Behr said. “When I first heard about the play, I didn’t think I’d like it, but if people come with an open mind, I think pretty much anybody would enjoy it.”
Playing opposite Chuck Shore in the role of Andrew, Behr noted that their long friendship offstage adds a great deal to the performance.
“We’ve known each other for so long, so we have great chemistry. We just know each other so well,” Behr said.
That type of chemistry onstage is critical for the performance of a play that relies so heavily on the actors, rather than physical action or an elaborate set.
“In this production, Melissa is seated on the right side of the stage, and Andrew is on the left. They get up and pace occasionally,” explained Martha Branson-Banks, who is assisting with the production of the play. “The play doesn’t take a lot of staging, but it relies a lot on the actors, and in this case, they’re wonderful.”
The story follows the relationship between the two characters from childhood into middle-age.
“They start out in second grade with this letter writing, and it continues all the way through 50-plus years,” Behr explained. “It becomes clear that Melissa and Andrew are closer to each other as friends than they are to their spouses.”
Both Branson-Banks and Behr noted that the play deals with adult themes and is therefore not an appropriate show for children to attend.
“The last time it was done in Buchanan, nine years ago, there were some complaints about the bad language, so we’ve cleaned it up some,” Behr noted. “The female character is a little rough around the edges.”
Despite the changes in the original wording, as Branson-Banks pointed out, “It’s fairly much an adult play. There is the inference in the play that the characters had an affair at one time, but it is never discussed explicitly.”
That being said, organizers feel that adults in the audience will enjoy the critically-acclaimed play, which is being directed by Kelly Carlin.
“It’s a beautiful love story,” Branson-Banks said. “It has joyous moments, tragic moments, and funny moments.”
“Love Letters” will be performed at the Tin Shop Theatre, located at 121 S. Oak St., on June 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28 and 29. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances will begin at 7:30 p.m., Saturday matinees will begin at 2:00 p.m., and Sunday matinees will begin at 4:00 p.m.
More information is available from the box office at (269) 695-6464 or from the website at www.tinshoptheatre.org.