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Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre
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Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Nelle Nugent, Barbara Broccoli,
Frederick Zollo, Olympus Theatricals
et al.

Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow

Love Letters

By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Gregory Mosher

Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street

Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Designer: Scott Lehrer
Advertising & Marketing: AKA
Casting: Telsey + Company/
William Cantler, CSA/Andrew Femenella, CSA
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Production Stage Manager: Matthew Farrell
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
Company Manager: Elizabeth M. Talmadge
General Manager: Peter Bogyo
Assoc. Producers: Jonathan Demar/Jeffrey Solis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 24, 2014

How many of us have saved, through the decades, love letters from ex-husbands, before they were husbands, love letters from lovers, even brief affairs, love letters and cards with loving messages from children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, nieces, nephews, and dear friends, letters to teachers from students, letters to students from teachers, and letters from high school best friends to each other in college. How many of us, those who were born early enough to have a letter and card collection, completed when paper, mailed letters, and written cards still exited, occasionally take down the “letter box” or “card box” to re-read and restore old memories, even just to once again bury them on high closet shelves. If it were not for such letters, written in ink, pencil, or, later on, markers (mostly for schoolchildren), we would not have such memory boxes. Who looks back on a computer inbox to reread online loving notes? The fact that they could be so easily and accidentally changed, deleted, or, heaven forbid, accidentally forwarded or replied to, makes them unworthy of the emotions of rereading paper, mailed love letters or even loving (family, friends, students, etc.) letters, most still stamped.

A.R. Gurney’s 1989 play, Love Letters, follows two characters, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, from kindergarten to the death of one character, seamlessly, with no intermission. Two actors read their parts from large open books, sitting at a table, facing straight forward toward the audience. Faces, arms, and hands are visible, even legs below the table, so gestures are meaningful but not overemployed. Tone and mature enunciation are credible for the book’s timeline. The days, weeks, years, and decades pass, with children’s party invitations, school chatter, comments about boys and girls, news and gossip of private schools and colleges, flirtations, angry complaints, notes of jealousy, notes of meeting boys, then men, girls, then women, and so on through the years. Melissa’s parents divorce, Melissa’s mother brings in a stepfather, then he leaves, and her father remarries, before Melissa’s doomed visit, and Andy has an affair in Japan, later marries, sails, joins a country club, makes law firm partner, children grow, and, finally Melissa and Andy dance around love and illicit flings. But, time swallows hope. Melissa grows weaker as Andy grows stronger, or, so it seems, until he’s put in his place and softens the distance.

Mia Farrow, whose voice I last heard in a revisit of the 1990 film, Alice, has not lost one ounce of exceptional acting and scintillating personality. As soon as she said her first lines tonight, I realized how much I missed her on film, and what could have been produced on stage, with this waif-like, ingénue, real woman, with real woman’s feelings and desires and chemistry with her leading men. Brian Dennehy was favorably reviewed on these pages in 2009 in Desire Under the Elms. He’s very manly, straightforward, poignant, and sometimes gruff, yet always with an underlying neediness. As Melissa and Andy, they played with the dialogue early on, squabbled in their teens, and, then, suddenly, we began to hear remorse that they walked on different roads, lived in different worlds. It was Melissa who was, earlier, considerably more wealthy than Andy. Then, it was Andy who more easily survived the turmoils of mid and later life, while Melissa grasped onto alcohol and slipped psychologically, unable to conquer her angst. As each event or crisis was noted, Ms. Farrow would scold, cajole, woo, laugh, cry, or, occasionally, freeze in place, head turned to the wings, signaling no letter of response, as Mr. Dennehy took another turn at the mic. In fact, the most memorable moments of this masterful performance were those silent ones, when words would be meaningless and the still moment of non-answer more resonant. Gregory Mosher has superbly directed for expressiveness, enchanting wit, and pathos.

One can only wish this is Mia Farrow’s introduction to her long-awaited comeback. And, wouldn’t that be ever so marvelous, with Brian Dennehy as her leading man. Their stage chemistry was palpable. Following Ms. Farrow and Mr. Dennehy, additional actors will appear in duo, but tonight’s duo will be a very hard act to follow. Kudos to Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy, and kudos to A.R. Gurney.

Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow
in "Love Letters"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at