As the Actors' Studio of Hope celebrates its fifth anniversary, a reprisal of the Studio's first play, "Love Letters," is set to be performed at WILLow LeaVes of Hope just in time for Valentine's Day.
Written by A. R. Gurney in 1988, "Love Letters" chronicles the relationship between childhood friends and sweethearts Andy Ladd and Melissa Gardner.
Using minimal props, the play opens with Ladd and Gardner reading notes they sent back and forth when they were children up through adulthood. From little love notes to letters and cards, the exchange ushers the audience through a relationship that spans nearly 50 years.
Pete Law, who plays Ladd, says the play is about growing up, gaining and losing a friendship, rekindling that friendship, as well as falling in and out of love.
One of the striking features of the play is the focus on the lost art of hand-written letters - a stark contrast to instant messaging and emails of present day, he says.
"A lot of people may remember those times when you anticipated getting a letter back," Law says. "And having to have the patience to wait a week to get a response."
Running an hour and half in length, "Love Letters" shares the hopes, dreams, life struggles and the reality of life that moves far too quickly.
With no formal script to memorize, Law and his co-star, Lisa Barrett, have found that a lack of memorization doesn't necessarily make their performance easier.
"Since you are reading the letters you have to make sure the emotion comes through the letter without showing the emotion," Law says. "It is kind of one of those plays where the words are almost as important as the action."
Barrett, who has performed in many plays at WILLow LeaVes of Hope, says her portrayal of Gardner is one that many women can sympathize with.
"I think she is like a lot of women in a lot of ways," Barrett says. "She goes through the same things all women go through throughout their life."
If there is one thing Barrett's role as Gardner has taught her it is to not be so hard on herself. As the years flow on, Gardner realizes she does need Ladd in her life. She can make it so far, but she knows her limits and that is a smart thing, Barrett says.
But, above all, the overarching theme of love is what Barrett hopes audiences take away from the performance.
"I would hope they can see a little bit of themselves in these characters," she says. "And see there are a lot of different types of love. Love is a binding thing for everyone in whatever way shape or form it touches your life. And it may or may not end on a happy note."
Law, who is also directing and producing the play, says he hopes the audience recognizes the relationship between Ladd and Gardner as something they can relate to. And, although the play isn't a comedy, there are parts that are sure to garner some laughter, he says.
"We have all had relationships like that," he says. "I just think people will enjoy the idea of how these two grew up, found each other, lost one another and found one another again."