The plot is deceptively simple, two people, a man and a woman, who have been corresponding for their entire lives. Through their letters the story unfolds and the audience is quickly reminded that there is nothing more complicated than just one man and one woman.
A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" is on the Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage right now. IRT favorite Priscilla Lindsay plays the woman, Melissa, and Patrick Clear is Andrew. They grew up together and from their first notes in second grade to postcards sent from family vacations to family Christmas letters as adults their lives have remained entwined.
Lindsay is wonderful as Melissa, but she definitely excels in the second half when Melissa moves past her melodramatic teenage angst into a bittersweet melancholy. Lindsay manages to find the perfect balance between sassy quips and an all-consuming unhappiness that she can't ever seem to shake off. Melissa's flip comments and cavalier tone hide a world of hurt that unfolds as we get to know her better. She comes from a world of privilege and money, but her parents' lack of interest in her and an unfortunate stepfather leave her to spin out of control.
Andrew on the other hand is the picture of perfection. He puts his parents' wishes and his schoolwork above any frivolous interests, but he can never quite shake his fascination with his first love. Clear nails Andrew's sincere, yet stuffy personality.
Melissa and Andy are an ill matched pair with polar opposite tendencies, but it's this unique blend created by the two that makes this play a gem. Just when you want to tell Andy to loosen up, Melissa does just that. And when Melissa seems to be on the edge of disaster, it's her friendship with Andy that grounds her.
The set for this show is unsurprisingly simple, with one exceptional dominant element, which continues the show's theme. A Renoir painting of a man and a woman has been enlarged and takes up the entire back wall of the stage. It was a bold and beautiful choice and works well in this setting. For more on the fascinating process behind the enlargement visit the IRT's blog.
The show is a study of how two people can have a profound effect on each other's lives just by being there. It's also a love letter to love letters and the intimate relationship they create between people.
Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show runs until Saturday, Jan. 16 on IRT's Upperstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252.
Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com Prices begin at $34 with discounts available for students and seniors.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois Street and southbound Capitol Avenue.
Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Repertory Theatre (including Renoir painting used in the set design)