A letter can be a powerful thing.
The handwritten note leaves an indelible mark forever, not only on the ink-stained paper, but also in the heart of its reader.
American playwright A.R. Gurney knew this when he created his Pulitzer Prize nominated play “Love Letters.”
The local theater team, Toto Productions, knew this too when they decided to present a two-weekend run of the play on the Martha Murphy Mainstage at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley. It opens Friday, Sept. 19.
“Love Letters,” considered one of Gurney’s best and a classic of the American stage, tells the story of two people who grew up in the 1930s and whose lives become intimately entwined by the prolificacy of their pens.
Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, both born to wealth and position, are childhood friends whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards.
Romantically attached, they continue to exchange letters through their boarding school and college years.
It’s an unlikely friendship. Andy is dutiful, responsible, endearingly stuffy, but caring and contemplative. Melissa is an indomitable free spirit, a rebellious and outspoken wild child whose extroverted behavior doesn’t always hide her vulnerability.
Andy goes on to excel at Yale and law school, while Melissa flunks out of a series of schools.
Although they rarely meet, their correspondence links them to each other even as distance separates them and the years pass.
Partly because of their differences, and partly because of bad timing and circumstance, these childhood mates never manage to make things work as a couple.
While Andy is off at war, Melissa marries, but her attachment to Andy remains strong and she continues to keep in touch as he marries, becomes a successful attorney, gets involved in politics and, eventually, is elected to the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, her marriage in tatters, Melissa dabbles in art and gigolos, drinks more than she should and becomes estranged from her children.
In the end, the letters reveal who they are and who they’ve loved.
Their lifetime of emotional missives make it eloquently clear how much they really meant to each other all along. Even when they were physically apart, they were ultimately as spiritually close as only two people who truly love each other can be.
Directed by Tim Rarick, the show features local actors Martha Murphy and Ed Cornachio in the roles of Melissa and Andy.
Nathan Simpson is the lighting designer and the show’s technician.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 19 through Sept. 28.
The play contains language and subject matter not appropriate for children. Performances begin promptly with no late seating.
There will be an opening night reception hosted by the families and friends of the actors following the Friday, Sept. 19 performance.
Tickets cost $15. For advanced tickets, call 221-8707 or 221-7880.
Patricia Duff can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.