Love Letters: Pen PillsParamount Theatre,
through May 14
Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min
How fine to receive that ovation at the Paramount Theatre last night following the performance of A.R. Gurney's epistolary homage to our vanishing American upper class. It is so difficult to portray rich Republicans onstage with any depth, so it should come as no surprise that Mr. Gurney's play makes little honest effort to delve into our star-crossed, lifelong, on-again/ off-again love except to find melodrama in our fumblings, mistakes, and occasional connections. Goodness! It's as if most of the latter part of the 20th century had no effect on our lives, such is Mr. Gurney's focus on the letters we exchanged over the years. Oh, there was a World War, the ongoing Cold War, your bouts with alcohol and drug addiction, not to mention (or to mention only in passing) the crises within our respective families. Well, this well-made play, thankfully, puts all that reality aside in order to concentrate on our letters to each other. A soft-focus affair for those in the plush seats. We like Ike, and all that, right?
But I do tend to go on, don't I, darling? How did you feel about the play?
What is this "much love" stuff, Andy darling? We are so much more than that trifling sign-off, and if you don't come see me soon I will be by the Senate any day now to moon the whole bloody lot of you. (Oh my, isn't it hilarious when blue bloods talk about mooning?) As for the performance, yes, my dear, it was a hoot, though I am in constant awe that anyone can stand us, much less cheer, for we're so dreadfully insipid! Perhaps the audience delighted in the "consummate actors" who portrayed us? Because they are as endearingly haughty as we ourselves are? I, for example, found myself played to the amused, eye-rolling hilt by Joan Collins, she of the pointiest little shoes I have ever seen. And what latter part of the 20th century? Didn't you notice that half my letters came from Madame Betty Ford and her sisters? There was a war? You don't say. Anyway, all I had was you, which is a tragedy not just because you are such a drag and so damn proper (except for that brief fling with the Japanese woman, you sly devil!), but also because we never really connect with each other in all those years. Our WASP-y tedium ensures that we engage in this softball whinefest without ever really taking an ounce of solace in each other. Is it any wonder I drink myself to death?
P.S. Did you kill the moth that landed on your podium in the middle of your most emotional scene? That showed class, sweetie, real class.
Do give credit to Stacy Keach, who plays my rather better-written role -- sorry, darling, but Mr. Gurney just seems to have a knack for character dissection of the male WASP. He really looked like he was having a good time sitting there in those posh chairs behind that even posher desk. He especially seemed to enjoy reading letters from my early years, reveling in my preadolescent naïveté. And he seemed to be enjoying the performance of you by Ms. Collins, too -- at least for a while, anyway. That awkward, out-of-character moment when he snatched that moth off his lectern and crushed it (how I dislike stage microphones, amplifying that poor insect's death just before your big finale!) was, my dear, just a glitch in his usual, kindly portrayal of yours truly. I attribute it to Mr. Keach's deep connection with my frustration by play's end that my life choice to steer the straight and narrow, to serve the public as a politician, to maintain a (false) sense of decorum about my family life led me from my one true love, you.
Andrew Makepeace Ladd III
How adorable of you to justify Mr. Keach's moth-snuff scene in such an erudite fashion! My God, but you're a bore. I agree that, alas, Mr. Gurney is much better with the male WASP. However, you'll notice that only I -- the rich, bored, irreverent, alcoholic, insecure woman of your dreams -- get to curse. And how that brings the house down! Aren't rich people cute when they say words like "snatch"? It never fails! And you're right, Stacy did seem to be having something of a good time. Didn't everyone? Aside from a couple of whispered "amens" when I was in boarding school and Joan said my line, "Help! Get me the hell out of here!," I heard no complaint. Though is it my imagination or was the house a little less full after intermission?