Vancouver Theatre: Love Letters
Love Letters by AR Gurney
Directed by Ryan Gladstone
Staircase Theatre Society
The Shop, 125 E 2nd Ave., Vancouver
Vancouver, BC: Theatre is an evanescent art. Unlike the static permanent nature of a filmed performance, each live performance of a play exists only as a moment in time, a unique connection between actors and audience that remains only as a memory in the minds of the participants. This Staircase Theatre production of Love Letters amplified the singular nature of live performance by featuring a different local theatre couple in the play each night of the four night run.
Love Letters is an epistolary play in which the 50 year friendship between free spirit, artistic Melissa Gardner and conservative, compulsive letter writer Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, is told through the letters, notes and cards, exchanged between them. Seated side by side at a table, an actor and actress of similar age, read the script just as if they were reading their correspondence aloud.
For the performance I saw on the evening of Valentine's Day, Meghan Gardiner and Todd Thomson read as Melissa and Andrew respectively.
As I was driving to The Shop to see the show, I thought that seeing Love Letters was probably not the smartest choice for a Valentine's Day play for me. Having lost my husband and soul mate to cancer at a far-too young age, this holiday and its pervasive displays of valentine cards, hearts and chocolates and other romantic emblems arouse emotions of sadness and loss like few other days in the year can do.
Listening to Todd and Meghan reading the text, brought back so many bittersweet memories of our life together. The first time we saw each other - eyes meeting across a crowded room, just as in the song, only we were not in the South Pacific but at a teen dance in southern Africa. The first date, the tumultuous break-up, reuniting, marriage, children and thirty-five years of love and friendship that ended too soon.
He was the ultimate romantic, never forgetting a birthday or anniversary. At the same time he was the steady foundation of my life, the rock from which I could fly and take on risks and career challenges, knowing that he would always be there for me. Ironically, although I always thought of myself as a writer, my husband was the prolific letter writer in our family - keeping up correspondence with friends and family around the world throughout his life.
As I listened to the spoken words ending a 50 year friendship with a love that was never truly fulfilled, like many in the audience I had tears in my eyes. But it made me realize how truly blessed I had been with my own love, and feelings of gratitude flooded in to drive out the sadness.
Thank you Meghan,Todd, Ryan and Staircase Theatre, and playwright AR Gurney for a heart warming evening of theatre. It was a smart choice for me after all.