Saturday, October 24, 1998

‘Love Letters’
is charming,
witty theater

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Love Letters 8 p.m. today, Hawaii Theatre. Tickets $31.50-$45. Call 528-0506.

A tale of star-crossed friendship came to life in all its charm, wit and poignancy last night as Robert Wagner and Jill St. John starred in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" at the Hawaii Theatre.

Well-written and well-acted "Love Letters" is great theater.

But who writes love letters or even sends cards these days?

"Love Letters" may seem an irrelevant snapshot of old "rich haole" culture. Perhaps that explains the many empty seats last night.

Gurney's play transcends class, race, time and place.

There should be far fewer empty seats tonight.

"Love Letters" is the 50-year correspondence between Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (Wagner) and Melissa Gardner (St. John), wealthy East Coast WASPs who first meet as kids in the '30s.

He grows up to accept with hardly a flinch the obligations that come with privileged birth.

She's a misfit and social rebel from early on.

He's a bit slow with women but enjoys putting his thoughts in writing; he finds he particularly enjoys writing to Melissa. She's more a telephone type of girl but comes to treasure his letters.

Wagner and St. John are delightful.

He plays Andy a bit broadly in Act I, but that doesn't diminish the overall impact of his performance.

Some of St. John's most moving work in Act II is nonverbal. She'll touch your heart.

Gurney is subtle but accurate in capturing the attitudes and mores of the East Coast upper class of the era; much of the clumsier-sounding slang was actually hip back then.

Gurney includes the casual prejudices and anti-Semitism, as well.

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