The power of theatre is that it’s ephemeral. Each performance is unique – never to be repeated. Staircase Theatre’s Love Letters celebrates the beauty of that fleeting moment by casting different actors each night. The simple grace of the play coupled with the unexpected intimacy of actors working their way through an unfamiliar script with their real-life partner, offers a gentle reminder of the complexity of long-term love in a season dominated by candy hearts and fairy tale romance.
A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters recounts fifty years of correspondence between childhood friends Melissa Gardner and Andrew (Andy) Makepeace Ladd III. Ranging from notes passed at recess to long letters written in old age, the two actors sit side by side reading the script and reacting naturally. Using this deceptively simple mechanic, the play covers a great deal of emotion and plot, resulting in a show that feels honest. There is no action, no set design, no lighting cues, no costuming, and no music to distract you from the quiet power of the story.
Last night’s actors, real-life couple Kaitlin Williams and Mack Gordon, did a phenomenal job of pulling you in to the world of letter writing. Starting off with the comically simple and stilted English of grade-school notes, Gordon and Williams created a bubble of stillness and calm on a busy Wednesday night. Listening to them read, you felt the warmth of their relationship reflected in the intonation and inflection as they read their lines. At one point Gordon misspoke and accidentally read one of William’s lines. When he noticed, he looked over at her sheepishly as she smiled and picked up where he left off. The comfort and familiarity was real and only served to enhance the intimacy of their performance.
Love Letters is a deceptively simple conceit executed with strength and grace. For romantics looking for something a little more realistic than a puppy stamped greeting card or a heart-shaped box of chocolate, Love Letters offers a night of sincerity, warmth, and empathy. It is a Valentine’s Day treat for emotional diabetics.
Love Letters by A.R. Gurney. Directed by Ryan Gladstone. On stage at The Shop (125 East 2nd Ave, Vancouver) until February 14. Visit http://staircasetheatre.com for tickets and information.