Remember letters? The kind where you would actually sit down at a table and place pen to paper, forming your T’s with precision and your Q’s just so? The kind you would actually use to keep in touch with a loved one? The kind that when received, you keep forever in a box — with its high-carbon paper crumbling and yellowing to somehow remind you even more of the passage of time?
Friday-Sunday, Feb. 5-7, the Absent Friends, raising funds to help keep the Athens Theatre in DeLand afloat, will be presenting A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer-nominated play Love Letters at the Athens. This charming production will remind you of the magic that unfolds when an envelope is ripped open and a letter unveiled.
The simple, poignant and often funny show focuses on two characters: the letter-loving Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and the freethinking and writing-averse Melissa Gardner.
Audiences follow correspondence between the two covering more than a half-century. Showcasing a full range of emotions and the arc of life and love, “You come to know these two characters so well that their parallel sorrows seem as familiar as your own.” (Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal).
Since its conception, these roles have been performed by a remarkable number of well-known actors. From Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy, to Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels, Bernadette Peters and John Dossett, Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones, and many more — stars of the screen and stage have jumped at the opportunity to perform this timeless show.
The same is true of this production. When the opportunity arose for longtime friends and colleagues Alexa Baldwin and Alan Ware to bring Love Letters to life, both leapt at the chance! As Alexa’s seventh featured role on the Athens stage (the most recent being Roz in 9 to 5), she recalls falling in love with the play while in high school, when her own parents played Andy and Melissa.
Alan (known by many as DeLand’s Bubble Guy) has been featured in 13 previous Athens shows, most recently in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. He, too, couldn’t contain his excitement about playing the role of Andy: “Finally, I’m the ideal age to do this! And the chance to embrace its dialogues, nuance and tenderness, let alone the emotional depth of these two characters as we canvass their friendship of 50 years through their own love letters, proves a rare and treasured piece of theater indeed.”
Unlike most Broadway productions (or the Athens Theatre’s, for that matter), Love Letters is deceptively simple and quietly moving. Staged with just two chairs (and often a table or two desks) and with the actors reading letters exchanged over a lifetime, one could easily assume that the show would be like a radio show — but instead “Love Letters, is that rare work whose emotional richness requires no embellishment in order to become a full-bodied theatrical experience. All that’s needed are gifted actors capable of tracing the poignant thread of longing and regret that binds a half-century of correspondence between characters whose relationship is thwarted by hesitation.” (David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter).
It is a tender, tragicomic and nuanced examination of the shared nostalgia, missed opportunities, and deep closeness of two lifelong, complicated friends (New York Times).
Please note: This play has some language and topics that are not suitable for children.
The Athens Theatre and Absent Friends invite you to this fundraising performance of Love Letters. The historic Athens Theatre has taken numerous precautions to ensure the safety of its patrons, staff, volunteers and actors.
Tickets are priced from $18 to $22. To purchase your tickets in advance or find out more specific information about dates, times and safety precautions, visit the Athens Theatre website at www.AthensDeLand.com or call the box office at 386-736-1500.
Box-office hours are 1-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and 1 1/2 hours before live performances.
The Athens Theatre is at 124 N. Florida Ave. in Downtown DeLand.