“LOVE LETTERS” PINNED TO THE HEART


BONNIE GOLDBERG

The art of letter writing is almost obsolete.  In the fast paced world of communication, we e-mail, instant message, cell phone, text or tweet.  Taking pen to paper and pondering our thoughts for posterity, especially considering the price of postage, is rarely an option.  Yet today, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, how lovely to pause and reflect with A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters,” courtesy of Square One Theatre Company’s lovely production in Stratford, weekends until February 20.

What woman wouldn’t enjoy receiving a missive from a loved one and Melissa Gardner is no exception.  For almost fifty years, she has been corresponding with Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and “Love Letters” chronicles the ups and downs of that roller coaster ride of on and off friendship and affection.

Beginning in 1937, Andrew has been taking pen and ink to paper, from the time they shared milk and cookies in second grade all way into adulthood.  They exchange confidences about a tonsillectomy and a bout of poison ivy to a broken leg skiing to a broken heart when they’ve been wounded by love.

A conservative and focused Pat Leo as Andy uses the more daring and outspoken Melissa, portrayed by the vivacious Peggy Nelson, as the springboard for his ambitious goals:  from winning fifty gold stars as the leadership award in summer camp, through his boarding school days, into law school, clerking for a Supreme Court judge and entering into the world of politics.

For Melissa, Andy is the go-to guy when her mother drinks too much, her parents divorce, she is kicked out of school, her journey to Italy to find her artistic self and her plunges into depression and self-doubt.

Their unique friendship that flirts with love sends them down different pathways and their timing is always off-kilter.  If she’s available, he is living with a Japanese girl.  If he’s open for a relationship, she’s just become engaged.  Yet their letters are the “strength and salvation” they both depend on to survive.  Tom Holehan directs this intimate and revealing exchange of emotions.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19), call Square One Theatre Company, 2422 Main Street, Stratford at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with a twilight matinee at 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 20.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day by attending a performance and a special “Sweetheart Dinner” for all ticket holders at a trio of restaurants within walking distance of the theatre.  Select from Shell Station Restaurant, 2520 Main Street, 203-377-1648, Stephen’s Pub and Grille, 2428 Main Street, 203-377-1484, or Rivenova Restaurant, 2410 Main Street at 203-870-8164.  Make the holiday unique and call for reservations.

Let A. R. Gurney inspire you to write a letter of your own as you listen to Melissa and Andrew reveal their hearts in the style of Juliet and her Romeo, both star-crossed and bittersweet.

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