Readers’ theater

As is tradition with this play, each week of Theatre on the Ridge’s month-long run of Love Letters, by A.R. Gurney, will feature different actors in the play’s two roles. Opening week featured Bill O’Hare as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III paired with Sandy Miller playing Melissa Gardner.

On a tiny set, the actors don’t leave their desk’s chairs, situated side-by-side, till final curtain call, sitting there reading letters written to each other that encompass several decades and many life transitions. The first letters are from when the pair were 9-year-olds (invitations, thank-you notes, “check this box if you like so-and-so"), and it soon becomes clear that this is a case of opposites attracting.

Andy Ladd is polite, a little stuffy even, and he loves to write. O’ Hare plays him in as awkward and shy and ultimately a perfectly endearing person. Melissa is a little hellion, who prefers to draw pictures instead of write, such as her rendition of a bed pan when she’s in the hospital with a broken leg. Although Miller’s voice was a little whiny at first, I grew to like her thrill-seeking Melissa.

In response to Andy’s form letter detailing his family’s achievements, which are over-the-top pretentious, Melissa writes back that if she ever gets another “drippy, Xeroxed, Xmas letter about his ducky family, I will come visit you for dinner, and I will stand up on my chair and moon the whole fucking family! Sincerely, Melissa.”

I was truly amazed at how much of a bond the actors managed to create with no physical interaction. Using only letters read back and forth, O’Hare and Miller took us on a voyeuristic ride into the hearts and minds of two fictional characters that was true to life and very moving.