Sunday, September 28, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Love Letters with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow

After Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow, catch these casting combinations:

Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy
Oct. 11-Nov. 7

Alan Alda and Candice Bergen 
Nov. 8- Dec. 5

Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg
Dec. 6 – Jan. 9

Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen 
Jan. 10, 2015 – Feb. 1, 2015


Letters Full of Love, Frienship Span 50-Year Relationship
By Lauren Yarger
Spanning 50 years of a relationship played out mostly in written letters, cards and notes, A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters comes to Broadway in style with a cast of big-name actors starting with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow.

Seated side-by-side at a table (John Lee Beatty was brought in for the almost unnecessary set), the actors read the pen-pal conversation between Melissa Gardner and Andy Makepeace Ladd III in a 90-minute, no-intermission performance.

“Dear Andy, thank you for the birthday present. . . .”

And so begins, in second grade, a lifelong friendship between the two.  They write to each other when separated at summer camp, family vacations, prep school, college and into adulthood.  Melissa’s first stepfather may be abusing her. Andy thinks he might enjoy going to law school.

The two see each other from time to time in person over the years too, when their schedules permit, but it is their letters – a joy for Andy who loves to write long-winded, eloquent accounts of his experiences but a labor for free-spirited Melissa, who prefers brevity and drawing pictures – that really forge the foundation of their relationship. Even when they aren’t speaking to each other over some disagreement, the letters bridge the gap of silence.

The two become confidants, sharing all of their experiences – and giving each other honest feedback – about sex, marriage, raising children and forging careers. Melissa’s great promise as a painter fades and she sinks into depression and alcoholism when she loses her children in a custody battle. Andy, a married senator with the perfect wife and kids, must be careful of appearances. He sends a wholesome family form letter for Christmas.

At one point, the friends wonder whether there is more to their relationship than meets the eye. Could all of the notes back and forth really be defined as love letters? Could it be that all they really have been looking for in a romantic relationship has been telegraphed all these years on the pages of their written communications? Or is it too hard to recreate the closeness of letters when they get up close and personal?

Gregory Mosher directs the fast-paced dialogue that ranges from humor to heart-breaking drama (and Farrow, in particular, rises to the emotion of the occasion).  A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Love Letters could get boring since the two actors simply sit and read – it is oft-produced for fundraisers with stars since no extended rehearsal is needed -- but Dennehy and Farrow manage to hold the audience’s interest throughout, despite some flaws in their characters.

Love Letters plays at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, : 256 West 47th St. NYC, through Feb. 1, 2015.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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