Presented by IpSkip Productions
Reviewed 29 January 2021
A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters premiered in 1988 and was short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize. It tells the story of the love between Melissa and Andy, who first meet as children. Melissa is from a wealthy, but dysfunctional family; Andy is a from a more middle-brow, but close, home. Their friendship lasts over 50 years.
Well known for plays such as The Dining Room and The Cocktail Hour, Gurney took the unusual step of making this an epistolary play: one told entirely through letters. This form has allowed many busy actors to take on the roles at various times, as there are no lines to learn. Melissa and Andy simply read their letters to each other, starting from childhood, and moving through to late middle-age.
Nathan Quadrio has allowed Gurney’s sharp, and often very funny, words to shine through with little embellishment. Lindsay Dunn as Andy, and Rose Vallen as Melissa, sit simply at tables on either side of the stage, and read. This may sound static and dull, but it is anything but. Love Letters surprisingly manages to be a highly engaging piece of theatre. Dunn and Vallen took on an enormous and challenging task in delivering this work. Dunn, at times, needed to lift his energy, but otherwise here were two solid and emotionally authentic performances.
The highly appreciative reaction from the audience throughout is testament to the power of this work, which speaks of love gone awry, friendship between men and women, addiction, family dynamics, and American society through the 20th century. There are moments of great pathos, some confronting reminders of mid-century racial and sexual attitudes, and some screamingly funny interchanges.
What a pity this was only on for one night! Let’s hope IpSkip can find some room in their calendar to present it again soon.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Nathan Quadrio, Lindsay Dunn, Rose Vallen, A. R. Gurney, The Cocktail Hour, The Dining Room,