The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through February 14, 2016
by Stuart W. Gamble
Love means never having to say you're sorry, doesn't it? In A.R. Guerney's romantic dramedy "Love Letters," lifelong intimate friends Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner seem to constantly be apologizing for something each has said or done over the course of nearly 50 years. Casting Ryan O'Neal as Andy and Ali MacGraw as Melissa is sheer genius. Re-teamed 45 years after their Oscar-nominated roles in 1970's "Love Story," these well-matched actors displayed great versatility and a strong emotional connection, despite only speaking to one another through letter writing. Being primarily film and television actors, their volume was a bit low at the start of the show. But as the evening drew on, their voices became stronger and filled with love, hate, anger, and despair.
MacGraw comes off particularly well. Her strong acting skills are brought to full power here. As the wealthy and rebellious Melissa, her restless nature is heard in her point-on, stinging retorts and later in her desperate cries for help against an omnipresent, conformist society.
O'Neal is full of surprises. Seeming rather bland at the in the opening minutes, his eleventh hour monologue moves the audience in its emotional strength. He is an actor of great skill.
Seeing this pair on stage together is a moment to savor. Both have led rich lives and have worked with and been personally involved with so many diverse Hollywood figures (Steve McQueen, Robert Evans, Farrrah Fawcett, and Barbra Streisand come to mind) all of whom have influenced who these two actors are today. They are truly a seasoned pair, worthy of their legendary status.
Opening night of "Love Letters" at the Bushnell was a near perfect evening of theatre, with the exception of a cacophony of audience coughing and somewhat poor acoustics that, unfortunately, overshadowed some witty lines.