The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Performance Review: ‘Love Letters’ tells story of romance over 50 years

Photo by Jen-Feng Liu for The Lafayette
“Love Letters” showcased the talent of both students and faculty.

The theater department’s recent production of A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” is a creative collaboration between students and faculty that will not soon be forgotten.

From March 2 to March 5, Benry James ’25, Lucas Phillips ’26, associate professor of biology Nancy Waters and associate professor of mechanical engineering Jeff Helm took to the stage.

‘Love Letters’ is a staged reading telling the story of Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III as they correspond through letters over 50 years. Although watching actors sit on stage and read from their scripts might sound monotonous, the production was far from dull. James and Phillips represent the characters’ younger years, while Waters and Helm represent their adulthood. The two pairs had perfect chemistry between each other and throughout time.

James’ bright, bubbly reading of Melissa paired perfectly with Phillips’ reserved Andrew. Both actors had many moments of silence, where letters were not being replied to or only contained one-word responses like “yes” and “no.” Both James and Phillips took these simplistic responses and added depth, allowing the audience to understand the character’s inner thoughts and feelings.

The transition to Waters and Helms taking the stage was seamless. The similarities between the actors playing the same character were communicated not just through staging and wardrobe, but also through their individual mannerisms. Throughout the first act, James occasionally leaned on their elbow or fiddled with their necklace, and as the second act progressed, Waters mirrored these actions. Phillips’ and Helm’s character is more proper and sits fairly still throughout the play. Yet both Phillips and Helm speak with such a similar diction that Phillips is believably the younger version of Helm.

‘Love Letters’ provided a unique opportunity for students to collaborate with faculty in a way that promotes growth and fun.

“It was kind of like any other play: you made friends with the cast, and then you go your separate ways, and you don’t regret having performed with them at all,” James said.

“Normally, when working with faculty it’s going to be ‘they’re directing the show, they’re stage-managing’ … but it’s very exciting because you’re like ‘oh, I want to follow their direction. I want to see what they’re doing because they are wiser, they have … more experience with Lafayette productions,’ and wanting to follow their lead, but also wanting to be like ‘but I have to follow my own flag. I have to be myself,'” James said.

“It was really cool. They were both very sweet,” Phillips said. “I worked with Jeff more because he was the older version of me, and it was really fun.”

Others involved in the production agree that it was a success.

“I am gratified to direct a dual cast of two promising young actors and two seasoned veterans as Melissa and Andy,” director Michael O’Neill wrote in an email.

“This amazing quartet eloquently delves beneath the sparkling wit we expect from Gurney to reveal the sadness and remorse that no one, not even the very rich, can completely avoid,” O’Neill wrote.

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About the Contributors
Paige Mathieu, Staff Culture Writer
Jen-Feng Liu, Staff Photographer

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