Thursday, April 7, 2016

Heartland's LOVE LETTERS Opens Tonight

Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III have known each other and corresponded with each other since they were children. Now, after a lifetime of birthday cards, postcards, short notes and heartfelt letters, we see Melissa and Andrew in front of us, recapturing their relationship simply by reading aloud. And that is the sum and substance of A. R. Gurney's Love Letters.

Gurney was very specific when he published his play. To perform Love Letters, Gurney wanted actors to sit at separate tables -- no staring into each other's eyes or running around or popping up and down -- and simply read their correspondence.

The list of actors who've performed Love Letters is amazing, from Gurney himself, opposite Holland Taylor in the original production, to Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones and Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, on and off Broadway, big cities and small towns in North America, in London and Monte Carlo and Tokyo, and supposedly in a command performance in Judge Ito's courtroom for the jurors in the O. J. Simpson trial. The most recent Broadway production opened with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow, with Carol Burnett taking over for Farrow and then Alan Alda and Candice Bergen stepping in. quoted Dennehy when they wrote about the play's history before that 2014 Broadway production: "[Love Letters] is an extraordinary piece," Dennehy told Today. "You cannot stage a play more simply than this, and yet it’s about everything in life. First love, loss of opportunities, loss of life, loss of love...It’s a beautiful play, and all you do is speak it."

Lori Adams and Jonathan Green rehearse Love Letters
Ron Emmons directs Love Letters for Heartland Theatre, with the Pay-What-You-Can preview performance scheduled for tonight. Emmons' production features three different casts for its three weekends of performance, with Lori Adams, Head of Acting at Illinois State University, opposite Jonathan Green, Illinois Wesleyan Provost and Dean of the Faculty, tonight through Sunday the 10th.

They'll be followed by Devon and Rhys Lovell April 14, 15, 16 and 17; and Cyndee and Dean Brown April 21, 22, 23 and 24.  Dr. Cyndee Brown is Head of Teacher Education at ISU. Rhys Lovell is Heartland Theatre's artistic director and Dean Brown is vice president of its board. All four of the Lovells and Browns have acted on Heartland's stage, with Rhys Lovell (Clybourne Park) and Cyndee Brown (Circle Mirror Transformation, Proof) both directing there, as well.

Evening performances begin at 7:30 pm, while Sunday matinees start at 2 pm. For more information on Love Letters at Heartland, click here. For show times and performance dates, click here. For reservation information, click here.

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