On a stage furnished simply with two desks, the story of Andrew and Melissa’s relationship unravels through a series of letters read aloud. At face value, Love Letters doesn’t sound especially exciting but thanks to the talents of stars Lucy van Oldenbarnveld and Pierre Brault, it’s an engaging piece of theater. These brilliant actors fire up our imagination with vivid characterizations and a stirring portrayal of complex emotions from start to end.
Love Letters begins with short exchanges between kids: accepting birthday invitations, teasing each other with playground proposals, and commiserating about parental neglect. It grows over time to a strained series of weakly disguised love letters as each character falls for their childhood friend despite marriages, careers, and new responsibilities. Andrew becomes a lawyer then a senator while Melissa’s promising visual arts career stalls only to end in a surprise final letter. Love Letter is a beautiful showcase of how people grow, both apart and together, and the power of true love over decades worth of life.
Since letter writing is a dying art, it would be easy to dismiss this play as irrelevant but I found the similarities between Andrew and Melissa’s exchanges and my own IM or text-based chats striking. I’m sure everyone has had a fight with a friend where pings go unanswered and a troubling sense of anxiety and shame mounts with each passing day. Likewise, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has written to someone in the heat of the moment and regretted it shortly after sending. Love Letters is a tribute not to letter writing but to the written word, which we depend upon more than ever.
What I found most interesting about this play was its commentary on the nature of disembodied communication. I used to rely heavily on e-mail when meeting a prospective new romantic partner only to find that our real-life chemistry was totally different than on the screen. It was a relief to see Andrew expressing the same sentiment: that his sense of intimacy with Melissa was different on the page than face to face. This dynamic was particularly captivating in the second act of the play, when their adult lives truly begin to tangle.
I was pleased with how universal and timeless the messages of Love Letter were. Far from a static sharing of miscellaneous correspondences, this play weaves an engaging narrative about friendship, love, life, and writing. It’s a great show for anyone intrigued by human nature and social relationships, and an enjoyable evening for anyone who’s a fan of great acting coupled with strong writing and direction.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Have you ever had a pen-pal? How do you feel meeting someone in person after writing to them a lot? Was this play believable or an obvious dramatization of the everyday? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Love Letters is presented by Plosive Productions. It runs now through February 6th at The Gladstone. Visit their show page for show times and how to buy tickets.