“Everyone has a first love, or a love that they let go, but maybe question why or what might have been,” says director Jenni Bertels of the “bold and challenging classic American play,” A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters. It is The Verona Studio’s current offering.
Following this summer’s successful run of Venus in Fur, Bertels says Love Letters, a reading of the letters between a man and a woman that begins when they are children and continues for fifty years more, is “a perfect show to support The Verona Studio’s mission and theater space.”
Located upstairs in the Reed Opera House, The Verona Studio is an intimate, innovative space, well suited to a two-person performance such as Love Letters. Though first performed in 1989, the play has been revisited numerous times, and recently reopened on Broadway with a slew of celebrities including Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, and Candace Bergen in the two roles.
“This is a perfect show for a ‘black box’ theater because it is a play that is meant to be read, not memorized, on a minimalistic set,” Bertels says. “The actors sit and read the play to the audience. Since the actors can only portray action through how the words are crafted, it was essential that we cast exceptional actors who are also expert storytellers. Also, since Verona is a think-outside-of-the-(black)-box theater, I decided to have two casts instead of just one. With the massive talent that showed up for auditions, I could have easily had four or five casts.”
Since each cast had to be rehearsed separately, Bertels limited herself to Fred Allen and Deborah Johansen on the first weekend and on the second, Robynn Hayek and Jay Howe. The four actors are well known in the Salem theatre scene, from performances at Pentacle Theatre.
Bertels says audiences attending Love Letters can expect “a real, intimate, human experience that is relatable to everyone on many different levels and throughout the many stages of life. This play showcases an over-fifty-year span of handwritten letters between two people with an incredible connection… a range of funny, warm, dark, and heart wrenching, expertly told, and all within a two-hour period.”
The play reminds audiences of the breadth of emotions that human beings conveyed to each other in hand-written correspondence for hundreds of years, before technology made letter writing a thing of the past.
A play by A.R. Gurney
Directed by Jenni Bertels
December 4, 5 and 7, and
December 12 and 13
The Verona Studio
Reed Opera House
189 Liberty St. NE, Salem