Friday, June 8, 2012


Call it Love Letters, the Louisiana tour. The staged play by A. R. Gurney played recently in February at Theatre 810 in Lafayette, and then again in late March at the DuChamp Opera House in St. Martinville for the Evangeline Players. Vincent P. Barras played Andrew Makepeace Ladd III in both productions, but the first incarnation starred Amanda Newbery, a teacher of talented students in Lafayette Parish, while the second production involved Jody L. Powell, a regular at the Eunice Players Theatre. Now, Jody Powell and Vincent Barras are teaming up again for another round of Love Letters to be performed at the Delta Grand Theatre in Opelousas on Friday (June 8th) and Saturday (June 9th) at 7 pm and Sunday (June 10th) at 2 pm. Call 407-1806 for tickets or check out the link:

“I’ve always wanted to do this play ever since I saw Jack Reedy and Gail Andriano perform it at the Lafayette Community Theatre back in the 90s,” Vincent P. Barras commented, but then he laughed, “I never thought that I would be performing it three times in a span of four months!”

Jody Powell has been enjoying the experience as well. “It’s always a joy to be in a good play, and to be on stage with Vince.” She herself is simultaneously directing the play Glass Mendacity so at times, she’s finding it all a bit overwhelming. “I love theatre… almost as much as Hanson.” (For those of you who don’t know, Jody is a devoted fan to the band Hanson, which regularly performs in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

This isn’t the first pairing for the two actors. Last November, Jody Powell directed A Nice Family Gathering for the 42nd season of the Eunice Players’ Theatre, and she cast Vincent P. Barras in the role of Carl Lundeen. The show went on to win six Irving Awards—the Eunice equivalent of the Tony—including Best Play and Best Director for Jody Powell. “I loved every minute of that experience,” Vincent recalled. “The Eunice crowd was so inviting, and the cast and director were awesome.”

Love Letters, by A. R Gurney, took a circuitous route to Broadway, first appearing in New Haven, Connecticut in 1988 starring Joanna Gleason and John Rubenstein. It quickly moved to the off-Broadway Promenade Theatre in March 1989 where Kathleen Turner took over the role of Melissa and John Rubenstein reprised his role as Andrew. In October of that same year, Love Letters made its Broadway debut starring Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, though it ran for only a few months. Since that time, Love Letters has appealed to numerous theatre companies specifically in a fund-raising capacity, and has drawn such talented actresses as Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Harris, Stockard Channing, Swoosie Kurtz, Nancy Marchand, and Elaine Stritch, and actors like James Earl Jones, Cliff Robertson, Richard Thomas, Christopher Reeve, Richard Kiley, and Robert Vaughn.
The Acadiana premiere of this play is believed to be Lafayette Community Theatre’s 1996 production starring Jack Reedy and Gail Andriano, an actress who won a Les Masques Best Actress award for her work. Since then, it has been revived numerous times in this area, the latest being a three-weekend run at Cité des Arts involving three different pairings of artists each week: Shane Guilbeau and Sandra Broussard; Ray and Laura Blum; and Cody Daigle and Cara Hayden. Its simple conceit—two characters reading their love letters before an audience—draws the listeners into the chamber piece, and the intimate surroundings of many Acadiana theatres accentuate Gurney’s words.

The play centers on Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, who are childhood friends whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards. Romantically attached, they continue to exchange letters through the boarding school and college years—where Andy goes on to excel at Yale and law school, while Melissa flunks out of a series of "good schools." While Andy is off at war Melissa marries, but her attachment to Andy remains strong and she continues to keep in touch as he marries, becomes a successful attorney, gets involved in politics and, eventually, is elected to the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, her marriage in tatters, Melissa dabbles in art and gigolos, drinks more than she should, and becomes estranged from her children. Eventually she and Andy do become involved in a brief affair, but it is really too late for both of them. However Andy's last letter, written to Melissa’s mother, makes it eloquently clear how much they really meant, and gave to, each other over the years—physically apart, perhaps, but spiritually as close as only true lovers can be.

“So come out and see Love Letters at the Delta Grand,” Jody Powell added. “It’s a lovely space for an intimate evening of good theatre.” And Vincent quipped, “I’ll let you know the next venue for the Louisiana Tour. We’re thinking Monroe or Shreveport.” Call 407-1806 for tickets or check out the link:

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