Although “Love Letters” was not written by Shakespeare, this tale featuring a pair of star-crossed lovers seemed perfect to Helen Machin-Smith, Islands Stage Left’s co-founder, for the Valentine season.
“It’s a love people will be able to recognize and relate to whether they have experienced it or not,” Machin-Smith said.
“Love Letters” will be playing Feb. 11 through March 6 at the San Juan Fairgrounds, Thursday’s through Saturday’s 7:30 to 9 p.m., and Sundays 4 -5:30 p.m.. Admission is free, donations appreciated. She and her husband, the other co-founder of Stage Left, Daniel Mayes, play the couple, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner.
The characters are both products of wealthy families, however Andrew is an up-tight lawyer turned politician while Melissa a free spirited, rebellious artist. It becomes quite clear through their correspondence they care dearly for one another regardless of their differences. Intertwined with their opposing natures is a brutal honesty.
“She calls him stuffy, and he tells her she plays too much and is giving herself a reputation.” Machin-Smith laughed.
Production-wise, it is a simple play involving very few props, and minimal physical action. “Love Letters” is spent entirely with the pair reading their 50 year collection of letters to one another.
Since the play opened in the 80’s, it has been performed by many celebrity couples, world-wide and translated into an array of languages from French to Urdu. It has drawn a huge audience wherever the showing.
“The story is very bitter sweet, I was almost moved to tears when I read it,”Machin-Smith said. “And it’s extremely well written.”
Over its almost 17 years of existence, Stage Left has built a reputation for high quality performances, and a good play always begins with the play write.
“If the play isn’t good, there isn’t much actors or directors can do, no matter how talented they are,” Machin-Smith said.
The play’s author AR Gurney is an interesting writer, who lists very specific stage directions, according to Machin-Smith. He does allow for the couple to be played by actors of any age, however she feels it works best as an older couple reflecting back over the years of letters.
“Everyone who has seen it is amazed by how much they are brought into the lives of this couple. The audience really ends up caring about them.” Machin-Smith said.