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Love Letters is a Pulitzer Prize for Drama nominated play by A. R. Gurney. The play centers on just two characters, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. Using the epistolary form sometimes found in novels, they sit side by side at tables and read the notes, letters and cards - in which over nearly 50 years, they discuss their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, victories and defeats - that have passed between them throughout their separated lives.

Melissa is portrayed as rich, spoiled, with a private nurse and private schools, artistic, certainly lascivious, divorced, eventually alcoholic, bi-polar, and suicidal. She hates writing "these goddamned letters" while Andy Ladd is square, destined for Yale, a naval officer, a lawyer, and a U.S. Senator, and says that "writing letters is what he loves most". In his preface to LOVE LETTERS, A. R. Gurney suggests that his emphasis in this play on the importance of writing is more than coincidental. Many in the audience leave a powerful LOVE LETTERS performance with a tear on their cheeks.

Performances

The play is a performance favorite for busy name actors, for it requires little preparation, and lines need not be memorized.

It was first performed in 1988 at the Long Wharf Theatremarker in New Haven, Connecticutmarker with Joanna Gleason and John Rubinstein.

Directed by John Tillinger, it opened with Kathleen Turner and Rubinstein on March 27, 1989 at the off-Broadway Promenade Theatre, where it ran for 64 performances. The play was performed only on Sunday and Monday evenings and changed its cast weekly. Among those who appeared in it were Barbara Barrie, Philip Bosco, Stephen Collins, Victor Garber, Julie Harris, George Grizzard, Anthony Heald, George Hearn, Richard Kiley, Dana Ivey, William Hurt, Marsha Mason, Christopher Reeve, Holland Taylor, George Segal, Christopher Walken, Joan Van Ark, Treat Williams, and Frances Sternhagen.

On October 31 that same year, a Broadwaymarker production opened at the Edison Theatre, where it ran for 96 performances. It opened with Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards. Other performers paired in the Broadway production included Lynn Redgrave and John Clark, Stockard Channing and John Rubinstein, Jane Curtin and Edward Hermann, Kate Nelligan and David Dukes, Polly Bergen and Robert Vaughn, Timothy Hutton and Elizabeth McGovern, Swoosie Kurtz and Richard Thomas, Elaine Stritch and Cliff Robertson, Nancy Marchand and Fritz Weaver, and Robert Foxworth and Elizabeth Montgomery.

The play has been performed by Carol Burnett, Brian Dennehy, Mel Gibson, and Sissy Spacek at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluridemarker, Coloradomarker

Adaptations

In 1992, the play was adapted to Urdu and Indianmarker context by playwright Javed Siddiqui, and performed by veteran Indian actors, Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh, under the direction of Feroz Abbas Khan and later toured to many parts of the world, including US, Europe and Pakistan . In 1999, Gurney adapted Love Letters for a television movie, directed by Stanley Donen, that dramatized scenes and portrayed characters merely described in the play. Laura Linney and Steven Weber starred.

On December 1, 2007, Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones gave a benefit performance of the play, to raise $1 million for Taylor's AIDS foundation. Tickets for the show were priced at $2,500 and more than 500 people attended. This event happened to coincide with the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike and, rather than cross the picket line, Taylor requested a "one night dispensation". The Writers Guild agreed not to picket the Paramount Pictures lot that night, to allow for the performance.

On June 4, 2007, Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels performed Love Letters at New York University as a benefit for the Flea Theatre. Directed by Jim Simpson and attended by the playwright, this performance was repeated on July 26, 2008 at the Detroit Institute of Artmarker's Detroit Film Theatermarker in a benefit for Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company.

References

  1. Writing its own destiny Screen , Namita Nivas, Nov 28, 2008.


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