“LOVE LETTERS” PERFECT ANY DAY OF THE YEAR


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Andrew Makepeace Ladd III began a life-long tradition of writing letters, by hand with a Parker 51 pen requiring real ink from a bottle, when he was in the second grade. He loved the joy of penning words to paper and, like a true scholar, wrote essays, letters to the editor and greeting cards to “present himself“ to those in his intimate world. Forget e-mails, tweets, text messages and Facebook, Andy preferred the more personal and gentler means of old-fashioned communication. Brian Dennehy is bringing Andrew to sincere and stabilizing life in an excellent production of A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” at Long Wharf Theatre’s Main Stage until Sunday, April 10. “Love Letters” had its world premiere at Long Wharf almost 30 years ago, in 1988.

The grateful recipient of all Andy’s thoughts and feelings is Miss Melissa Gardner, delightfully and rebelliously portrayed by Mia Farrow. The two pen pals meet in second grade when Andrew is invited to Melissa’s birthday party and she is forced by etiquette and her mother to acknowledge his gift with an appropriate note of thanks and appreciation. Thus begins a life-long tradition of sending letters and postcards back and forth between the pair, who start as friends and graduate to much more.

Their missives cover his tonsils operation and her broken leg from skiing, her stint at summer camp, his stays at all-boys schools and their adventures in foreign lands for vacations. Throughout college years, their career choices emerge. Melissa was always including drawings of the occasional cat and kangaroo, dancing bear or bare body making her decision to pursue art an easy one. For his part, Andy chose a Naval stint and later the law and politics.

Their friendship endured a variety of girl and boy friends, marriages to other people, divorces, remarriages, and yet their devotion remained strong. Clearly they were always being “pushed together and pulled apart.” Her slightly outlandish and outspoken persona is a great foil for his straight arrow, slightly stuffy and conservative ways. Over five decades, they form a lasting connection that endures geographical separation and time passages. It is only later, when Andrew follows his heart into a Senate run, that they consummate their long felt feelings physically.

Melissa and Andy mark all the big and small moments of their friendship and affection by writing to each other, with even pauses in their communication speaking volumes. Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein plays a sensitive Post Master as he orchestrates this famous pair of actors in a poignant interchange of words as they read their correspondence in a heartfelt, often humorous, occasionally teary, and touching manner over fifty years.

For tickets ($25-85), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Let Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow share the intimacies of Andrew and Melissa so beautifully, expressing how he spent his whole life trying to rescue his "lost princess of Oz."

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