A.R. Gurney’s 1980s play “Love Letters,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is a perennial favorite of theater companies everywhere. It’s inexpensive to produce — the two-hander takes place at a single desk on an empty stage — and hot-ticket performers can be brought in at the last minute because the actors are “on book,” with the script open in front of them, since the entire story is told (no surprise here) through the vanishing art of letter-writing.
But ‘Love Letters’ is more than that — it’s the exploration of the complicated love/no-love relationship between the uptight, law-abiding Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and the ill-fated, uncontrollable, and artistic Melissa Gardner from their second-grade letters through to the tear-jerking finale. And the question, perfect of course for this Valentine’s Day weekend: What is love? Is it sex, marriage, family, a dozen roses, a book or a drawing? Is it having someone to tell your true feelings to, someone you can be yourself with? Is it all those things or none of them?
Michael Disher has directed a beautiful, poignant version of Gurney’s words come to life at Center Stage at the Southampton Cultural Center. And he’s taken advantage of what “Love Letters” is best known for: different actors at different performances. Barbara Jo Howard and John Leonard were wonderful as the tender couple last weekend; but Daniel Becker and Catherine Maloney also perform, and they also crisscross and intertwine. Check the website to see who will be on stage for each show.
And although putting pen to paper may be a dying art, this journey through 50 years of friendship shows the audience that the connection and communication between two hearts will never be lost.
“Love Letters” plays through Sunday, February 17 at the Southampton Cultural Center. For tickets and more information, visit www.scc-arts.org.