Written by A.R. Gurney
Directed by Kate Blackhurst
Canberra REP Theatre to March 26
Reviewed by Len Power 16 March 2023
“Love Letters” was first performed in the USA in 1989. The play centres on two fictional well-to-do Americans, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. Covering nearly 50 years, we witness their early hopes and dreams and share their disappointments, successes and failures through their correspondence with each other as they lead their mostly separate lives.
The play needs skilled performers who can carry this two-handed play in a minimal setting. Luckily, Canberra REP have Michael Sparks and Andrea Close, two Canberra actors with formidable acting experience. Seen together in last year’s electrifying “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?”, they again create believable characters that we believe in as they change over a large number of years.
|Michael Sparks (as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III) and Andrea Close (as Melissa Gardner)|
As they read their letters from each other, we are drawn into their lives and hang on every word. Michael Sparks as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III is a young, awkward boy who is drawn to the smart-talking, young Melissa Gardner of Andrea Close. As the play progresses, both actors’ skilled body language as well as their voice modulations and acute sense of timing add considerable colour to their changing characters over the years. Both performers give superb performances.
The audience is drawn into the details of the lives of these people against a background of the manners and morals of these particular fifty years or so in American history.
Director, Kate Blackhurst, has ensured that the gradual changes in the actors’ characters over the years is well-balanced and has a believable depth. The simple setting by Andrew Kay keeps the focus clearly on the actors.
Letter-writing may be a dying art in this digital age but human beings still need to communicate. The means may be different these days, but the sentiment portrayed in the play is still something we can identify with. It’s not surprising that we are spell-bound and ultimately moved by these two friends as they correspond over the years.
This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 17 March.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/