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January onstage


A.R. Gurney

Photo courtesy of A. R. Gurney



Love Letters

by A. R. Gurney (O’Connell and Company)



Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner begin their lifelong correspondence with birthday party thank-you notes and continue it through loves, disappointments, successes, failures, and, ultimately, death. Their letters are a tribute to the deepest kind of love.


*Author A. R . Gurney intended Love Letters to be an epistolary novel, but when he sent it to the New Yorker, he got a surprising response. “They said ‘We don’t publish plays.’ They saw it as a play, so I said, ‘Let’s try it as a play,’” Gurney told Spree in 2012. He “tried” it at the New York Public Library, where he was scheduled to lecture. Instead, he and actress Holland Taylor read Love Letters, putting an intermission halfway through as if it were a play. “And at intermission, all these women left, and I thought, ‘What have I said?’”Gurney recalled. “But they had all run out to use their cell phones to call their nannies or sitters to say they’d be home a little later. I was extremely surprised.”


*Once Love Letters caught on—and it did take a while—it became Gurney’s most-“produced” play; it even had Broadway runs in 1989 and 2014, and was a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The format makes it an easy no-memorization project for busy A-list actors, and it’s been read by countless numbers of them including Elizabeth Taylor, Christopher Walken, Elaine Stritch, Christopher Reeve, William Hurt, and more who clamored to be a part of it for years. It’s also a great vehicle for novelty pairings, such as Larry Hagman and Linda Gray, Dallas’s J. R. and Sue Ellen Ewing. Indeed, O’Connell and Company intends to have a rotating slate of Buffalo favorites during the run.


*The flexibility and ease of Love Letters also means it can be done anywhere—churches, libraries, high schools—and is popular as a quick fundraiser. It also gets done all over the world, “France, Germany, India, China, Korea, and Japan,” Gurney marveled. “The one place it’s never done is England. We opened it there and they slaughtered me, and nobody’s dared touch it since.”


*Love Letters is truly a theater piece, as multiple failed attempts to bring it to the big screen proved. In 1999, it did make it to the small screen as an ABC television movie starring Laura Linney and Stephen Weber, but one could argue that the added sets, costumes, and characters robbed the show of its magic.


What they said:

“What ultimately makes the play so haunting is the recognition that the heart of Andy and Melissa’s relationship cannot be captured in the many thousands of words they exchange. Even today, when people broadcast their every waking thought on any number of social media platforms, we only really manage to record a small sliver of what it means, and how it feels, to grow and change, to experience love and endure loss. In its oblique and unaffected way, Love Letters illustrates this universal truth, that so much of life, probably most of it, is a solitary journey, a letter we write only to ourselves.”__Charles Isherwood, the New York Times, 2014


O’Connell and Company presents Love Letters beginning January 31 (oconnellandcompany.com, 848-0800)



Don't Miss:


by Eric Idle and John DuPrez at Kavinoky


Following last season’s smash hits, The Producers and Mamma Mia!, Lynne Kurdziel Formato is back at Kavinoky directing Spamalot, Eric Idle and John DuPrez’s musical stage adaptation of the 1975 film classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The 2005 Best Musical Tony winner pays homage to the film by having actors play several roles, and also delivers the trademark Python humor—including the Knights Who Say Ni, killer rabbits, accused witches—you would expect.


Spamalot! opens at Kavinoky January 11 (kavinokytheatre.com, 829-7668).



Also playing (in order of closing):

Spamalot! opens at Kavinoky January 11 (kavinokytheatre.com, 829-7668).

O’Connell and Company presents Love Letters beginning January 31 (oconnellandcompany.com, 848-0800).

Paul Robeson opens Native Son, adapted from the novel of the same name, on January 18 (aaccbuffalo.org, 884-2013).

A new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility opens January 18 at Irish Classical Theatre Company (irishclassicaltheatre.com, 853-4282).

The Kathy & Mo Show: Parallel Lives/The Dark Side opens at the Smith Theatre January 18, produced by O’Connell and Company (sheas.org,847-1410).

Tales of the Driven begins at Subversive Theatre Collective January 18 (subversivetheatre.org, 408-0499).

Road Less Traveled Productions presents The Illusion beginning January 18 (roadlesstraveledproductions.org; 629-3069).



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