Thursday, 7 September 2000

Love Letters by A. R. Gurney, Sept 7, 2000

Love Letters by A. R. Gurney
 at Chapel off Chapel until September 16, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is a joy to see actors without the trappings of lighting, special effects, costumes or even stage action, to clutter or interfere with their craft. To be specific, it is a joy when the actors are as skilful as Maggie Millar and Alan Hopgood and the dialogue is as well-crafted as that of US playwright, A. R. Gurney.

Love Letters was performed by various Australian theatrical couples during the last few years. It is a powerful, funny and moving rehearsed reading of a series of very personal letters between a man and a woman as they grow from adolescence and early attraction to late middle age.

There is something passionate, intimate and secretive about a letter-writing relationship. There is no eye contact so the words must be vivid and the reader's first response is unseen, his or her perception is unpredictable and the interpretation is often complex.

Even the shyest writer can express strong emotion in a letter. Love can be declared, promises made - and just as easily broken in the delay between correspondence.

In this case, the gaps between letters spread out into years. Sometimes, after the two married, they amounted only to xeroxed Christmas greetings and birthday cards.

The pair are opposites from an early age. Although both come from middle class families, Melissa (Millar ) is from substantial wealth and Andy (Hopgood) from moderate comfort. Andy is straight, loved by his conservative parents and shipped off to boys schools for his own good, to row and study Racine.

Melissa is shipped off for different reasons. Her mother is a drunk and a serial divorcee. Melissa is a tragedy waiting to happen. She describes herself in later life when the two finally consummate their love, as a "boozed-out, cynical, lascivious old broad". Andy, in contrast, is a stalwart citizen, a Republican senator with a stable and dull marriage and children.

Millar and Hopgood sit in upright chairs, script in hand, but the lives and loves of these two adorable characters are palpable. We hear their joy and pain, we hope for a reunion and a cure for Melissa's alcoholism, we pray they will not marry their silly spouses and we romanticise the possibilities of the life they never lived together.

We all have those dreams of past loves to repent.

By Kate Herbert

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