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Time Out Theater Review: 'Love Letters'

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A new production of A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" starring Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy has opened on Broadway. David Cote of Time Out New York filed the following review.

A.R. Gurney’s "Love Letters" is one of those cultural artifacts many folks have heard about, but few, at least few that I know, have actually seen. Despite running briefly on and off Broadway in 1989, it’s the sort of community-theater chestnut that winds up in punch lines: “George Hamilton isn’t dead; he’s doing Love Letters in Pasadena.” That sort of thing. Nice to learn that the thing itself is such an engaging, touching read.

Director Gregory Mosher keeps it sweet and simple, as it has always meant to be: an un-memorized reading. Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy sit at a wooden desk, water glasses nearby, reciting from scripts. Both seasoned actors slide easily into their carefully shaded roles: Farrow affects a pixyish impudence as a freethinking rich girl, Melissa Gardner; Dennehy maintains a staunch pomposity as rules-bound Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. Through missives that span half a century, from classroom notes to billet-doux between middle-aged, extramarital lovers, we watch this odd couple endure school, marry, divorce, drink themselves into rehab and finally admit the mutual passion that has shaped, or warped, their lives. As usual with Gurney, the language is wryly witty, irreverence balanced by reflexive sadness, his mixed admiration and horror for Eastern WASP repression and snobbery.

In weeks to come, producers will rotate in new celebrity cast members: Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Candace Bergen and more. I’m sure they’ll bring different colors to it, but the piece is sturdy stuff. It's hard to screw up. "Love Letters" may not push the envelope, but it does leave a stamp.

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