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Is “Love Letters” a lazy excuse for a play?

Two actors and that’s it. It seems to play everywhere with all different permutations, sometimes comically so.

But is it really any good? Or just an excuse to see actors past their prime?

by Anonymousreply 80July 8, 2024 3:29 AM

Of course it's a lazy excuse for a play. No set, scripts right in front of the actors. Just cast the right has-beens and watch the money roll in!

by Anonymousreply 1July 4, 2024 3:33 PM

People get to see their fav B-list (or lower) actors and/or “Celebrities” who don’t have to commit any rehearsal time or memory bandwidth to a project which costs the theatre minimal overhead.


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by Anonymousreply 2July 4, 2024 3:37 PM

Exactly. It's not lazy so much as a calculated cash cow. It's like "The Gin Game" or "Same Time, Next Year" only done even more cheaply.

by Anonymousreply 3July 4, 2024 3:48 PM

It's easy to take on the road, like Don Juan in Hell, John Brown's Body, and staged readings like that in the 1950s.

by Anonymousreply 4July 4, 2024 4:56 PM

Kittens love it!

by Anonymousreply 5July 4, 2024 5:20 PM

When I saw Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy do it on Broadway, I was pleasantly surprised at how -- thanks to Farrow's go-for-broke performance -- the play eventually got to some dark places quite effectively.

by Anonymousreply 6July 4, 2024 5:22 PM

R6 - Was it her impromptu monologue about Woody?

by Anonymousreply 7July 4, 2024 8:19 PM

I worked on the original Broadway run of LOVE LETTERS. While it seemed like just a B-list of celebrities with no rehearsal and minimal production values, I was surprised how many actors took this assignment very seriously. Some had done previous productions, so it was far from a cold reading. And some had obviously rehearsed with their scene partners sometime before their onstage appearance.

One actress who stood out was Elaine Stritch. Having previously performed in the show, she returned to share the stage with Cliff Robertson. What was truly surprising was her level of dedication. Elaine would arrive at the theater at least three hours before the performance, diligently going over the script and experimenting with different readings in her dressing room. Her dedication was remarkable, even if it did come with some challenges for the production staff.

Here's a bit of gossip: the dressing rooms all had a two-way intercom system, so the stage manager could make announcements, call places, etc., and the actors could speak back to the stage manager. Not everyone realized that the system worked both ways. One night, the stage manager told me that when he went to call half-hour to John Rubenstein’s dressing room, he could hear John having sex with his then-wife, Judi West. Well, we assumed it was his wife. It was NOT Stockard Channing who was appearing with him.

by Anonymousreply 8July 4, 2024 10:13 PM

[quote]Of course it's a lazy excuse for a play. No set, scripts right in front of the actors

That "script" is the love letters!

by Anonymousreply 9July 4, 2024 10:34 PM

I saw Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers perform it in Detroit, MI - it was awesome

by Anonymousreply 10July 4, 2024 10:40 PM

OP we include links in posts such as this. Do better.

by Anonymousreply 11July 4, 2024 10:44 PM

R8, if it wasn’t his wife and it was NOT Stockard Channing, who was having sex with?

by Anonymousreply 12July 4, 2024 11:44 PM

Who was *he* having sex with?

by Anonymousreply 13July 4, 2024 11:46 PM

Did you post this just to prove you don't know the meaning of "permutations," OP?


by Anonymousreply 14July 4, 2024 11:59 PM

R12 and R13, I believe Rubenstein divorced his wife the same year (1989) So perhaps he was cheating on her, which may have led to the divorce. Apparently, he's been married three times.

by Anonymousreply 15July 5, 2024 12:06 AM

Jeff was cheating on Nancy again. Color me shocked. My princess deserves better.

by Anonymousreply 16July 5, 2024 12:19 AM

I saw Bonnie Franklin and Pat Harrington Jr. perform it at Mr. Burt Reynolds' Dinner Theater.

by Anonymousreply 17July 5, 2024 12:25 AM

R17, I saw Ruth Buzzi as Evita at the same location!

by Anonymousreply 18July 5, 2024 12:29 AM

My 1984 film of the same name was far superior. Oscar caliber.

by Anonymousreply 19July 5, 2024 12:33 AM

Have two men ever performed it?

by Anonymousreply 20July 5, 2024 12:46 AM

Eddie Izzard did an acclaimed one-person performance.

by Anonymousreply 21July 5, 2024 12:51 AM

[quote]r19 My 1984 film of the same name was far superior. Oscar caliber. —Jamie Lee

You know, Ms. Curtis, we’ve never really given you credit for improving visibility so. You always made everything you did look like a gay love story!

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by Anonymousreply 22July 5, 2024 12:52 AM

Bonnie Franklin actually did a production with Ron Rifkin

by Anonymousreply 23July 5, 2024 1:03 AM

Sorry, Bonnie did it with Keir Dullea

by Anonymousreply 24July 5, 2024 1:03 AM

Bonnie slapped me quite viciously both on and off stage. She made HAL look like a pussycat.

by Anonymousreply 25July 5, 2024 1:25 AM

"Another World" divas Victoria Wyndham & Charles Keating did a production.

by Anonymousreply 26July 5, 2024 1:36 AM


Don’t use a curtain. Don't introduce music or singing or any other effects before the houselights dim or after the play is over.

The actors should enter and exit from the same side in a low light. The actor should pull out the actress's chair, she should sit, then he should sit, and then the lights come up and they do the play. In all entrances and exits, the woman should enter and leave the stage first, followed by the man. During the curtain call, they should take a bow on either side of the desk before meeting each other in front of it.

There should be no changing or adjusting of costumes between acts. The same outfit should be worn throughout.

No baby talk, please. When the actors read the earlier letters, they are still older people, looking back, reading what they wrote when they were younger.

No mugging, either. When the actors are receiving letters, they are simply recipients, reading letters in private, not people publicizing their reactions or making faces in front of a mirror.

If a decanter and water glasses are used, make sure that these do not become too much of a prop. If we see Melissa drinking all the time, she makes it simply a play about alcoholism.

Avoid crying. This applies particularly to Andy at the end. Let the audience do the crying, if it feels like it.

Don’t mess around with the text. No embellishments, insertions, cuts, or silent mouthings, please. Trust what I wrote, perform it as written, and all will be well.

A.R. Gurney

by Anonymousreply 27July 5, 2024 2:42 AM

R26, them not asking me was like a kick in the cunt!

by Anonymousreply 28July 5, 2024 2:55 AM

I would love to see the Wooster Group stage it in the midst of a rave, where you can't actually hear the words, but can feel their erotic pulse.

by Anonymousreply 29July 5, 2024 3:01 AM

A local theater had a pair of beloved elderly newscasters do Love Letters as a fundraiser. It made sense, because their entire job was reading.

by Anonymousreply 30July 5, 2024 3:46 AM

[quote]My 1984 film of the same name was far superior. Oscar caliber. —Jamie Lee

Actually, that was JLC's best performance in anything. She was very moving. She never got a leading role as good as that again.

by Anonymousreply 31July 5, 2024 3:48 AM

[quote]I would love to see the Wooster Group stage it in the midst of a rave, where you can't actually hear the words, but can feel their erotic pulse.

I saw them do it at La Mama in the 1980s.

A naked Willem Dafoe played Andy, and his gigantic penis played Melissa.

by Anonymousreply 32July 5, 2024 3:50 AM

I saw it with John Rubinstein and Stockard Channing. I enjoyed seeing them (especially her) but I thought the play was boring and the storyline predictable.

by Anonymousreply 33July 5, 2024 6:21 AM

It sounds like all the action and surprises were off-stage, in Rubinstein's dressing room.

by Anonymousreply 34July 5, 2024 6:24 AM

I saw it in the late 80's-early 90's, in San Diego with Barbara Rush & Harold Gould.

by Anonymousreply 35July 5, 2024 6:28 AM

[quote]R27 There should be no changing or adjusting of costumes between acts.

This simplistic tripe is [italic]two acts long ? ?


by Anonymousreply 36July 5, 2024 6:33 AM

I should have won my second Oscar for this. That damn Joan Crawford and her "flu".

by Anonymousreply 37July 5, 2024 10:14 AM

What about Ellen Degeneres’ interpretation?

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by Anonymousreply 38July 5, 2024 3:27 PM

I would have seen Britt and Robert Newman. I would definitely make it a mission to see it if Kim Zimmer ever performed it with Robert Newman.

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by Anonymousreply 39July 5, 2024 3:30 PM

[quote] And some had obviously rehearsed with their scene partners sometime before their onstage appearance.

R8 You mean some people did not even rehearse the show with their costar - on Broadway? Is that what you're implying?

by Anonymousreply 40July 5, 2024 3:31 PM

As I said in the Eva Marie Saint thread - which may have inspired this one - I saw Eva and her husband, director Jeffrey Hayden, do the play in Ogunquit. It was excellent - and, surprisingly, since I didn't know he acted, Jeffrey Hayden was as good as his wife. It was the only production of the show I had ever seen (I've since seen one or tow on YouTube) and it's not my idea of the greatest thing of all time, but it was totally satisfying and moving in the Saint-Hayden incarnation - and I think they were both in their mid-70s at the time.

by Anonymousreply 41July 5, 2024 3:35 PM


by Anonymousreply 42July 5, 2024 3:35 PM

Btw, Love Letters (1945 - unrelated) w/Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten is a pretty cool mystery movie.

by Anonymousreply 43July 5, 2024 3:36 PM

I love the bit where the woman goes off on the guy about those holiday newsletters.

I saw Darlene Conley do that with John McCook back in the 1990s.

She delivered, of course.

by Anonymousreply 44July 5, 2024 3:41 PM

I saw it when I was in college with Julie Harris and Richard Kiley. I think I was too young to really get it at the time.

by Anonymousreply 45July 5, 2024 3:57 PM

John Rubinstein and Joanna Gleason were in the original Long Wharf production. It then moved off-Broadway with Rubinstein and Kathleen Turner, then to Broadway with Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards.

by Anonymousreply 46July 5, 2024 4:02 PM

R44, you’re so lucky to have seen that production! I had no idea those two had done it. I’d love to have watched Darlene Conley perform anything!

by Anonymousreply 47July 5, 2024 4:10 PM

R47 Who are they? Soap stars?

by Anonymousreply 48July 5, 2024 4:24 PM

It's no FOLLIES, that's for sure.

by Anonymousreply 49July 5, 2024 4:26 PM

Surprised no one's turned it into a musical.

by Anonymousreply 50July 5, 2024 4:39 PM

There is a film version, made for tv and directed by no less than Stanley Donen, starring horsehung Steven Weber from Wings and Romulus Linney's daughter Laura.

The play is an excellent piece of writing that meets its goals of delivering a satisfying old school personal-appearance style evening at the theatre with minimal rehearsal. Because of cell phone and texting technology, it now must be performed as a period piece. The arrival of the phone at the end of act one is supposed to be a cliffhanger.

The reason it feels like "a lazy excuse" is that the title has seen even more abuse than most of the easy titles, at all levels of production, because of the non-memorized aspect combined with the extremely minimal production demands. So many bad productions, amateur productions, cheap productions with no sense of occasion or performers who are miscast or aren't skilled enough actors to know how to do a piece like Love Letters.

There's a bootleg of Liza Minnelli as alcoholic Melissa performing it opposite one of her exes, Desi Arnaz Jr. (odd as WASPY Andy but a sensible choice to play opposite her). I can't find clips of it online but it did happen and the tape does exist. The Broadway revival didn't work because the pairings were off. Alan Alda and Carol Burnett would have sold tickets. Carol with Brian Dennehy, followed by Alan with Candice Bergen, which is a decent pairing but not a must see.

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by Anonymousreply 51July 5, 2024 6:57 PM

Don't all plays need rehearsal? There's no blocking or memorization but cold readings aren't easy to do without mistakes. Besides it needs to be directed. The actors aren't reading a laundry list. And I would think the two stars need to get their timing down and work together on the performance.

by Anonymousreply 52July 5, 2024 8:30 PM

Shirley Jones & Marty Ingels

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by Anonymousreply 53July 5, 2024 8:48 PM

I see that Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal toured with the play in 2015-16. I like that idea. Imagine Richard Gere opposite Debra Winger one more time, or Gere and Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams ...

by Anonymousreply 54July 5, 2024 9:09 PM

I would rather see Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe.

by Anonymousreply 55July 5, 2024 9:11 PM

[quote]I saw Darlene Conley do that with John McCook back in the 1990s. She delivered, of course.


by Anonymousreply 56July 5, 2024 9:11 PM

Sylvia Fowler at r26 beat me to it. Too bad Wyndham didn't get to do it with Douglass Watson.

by Anonymousreply 57July 5, 2024 9:16 PM

[quote]Too bad Wyndham didn't get to do it with Douglass Watson.

Sorry, but I much preferred mean, vindictive Rachel.

by Anonymousreply 58July 5, 2024 9:18 PM

I liked her too r58. Remember when sending baby clothes to a woman who recently miscarried was enough to be the biggest bitch ever ?

by Anonymousreply 59July 5, 2024 9:34 PM

I prefer Keating to Watson. Mac always struck me as a pompous windbag.

by Anonymousreply 60July 5, 2024 10:31 PM

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone.

by Anonymousreply 61July 5, 2024 10:58 PM

R40 The stage manager would meet with the actors a day before the performance to go over the blocking, as indicated in Gurney's notes. Then, they would do a read-through of the play. There would be discussion, and questions would be asked and answered. If they wanted to, they would do a second read-through or sometimes just specific letters. On opening day, the actors would come in and do another read-through, although some opted out since they had done the show previously or felt it was unnecessary. That's it. Gurney wanted the play to seem as if the two characters were reading the letters for the first time, and he felt that extended rehearsals would make it seem too theatrical.

by Anonymousreply 62July 6, 2024 12:27 AM

At some point will the text be altered for same sex casts? (Tho most gay artists probably have too much taste to want to appear in hollow crap like this…)

The penultimate cast, of course, would have been Vic Tayback and Linda Lavin.

by Anonymousreply 63July 6, 2024 12:57 AM

Redd Foxx and LaWanda Page

by Anonymousreply 64July 6, 2024 12:59 AM

Karen Lynn Gurney and John Travolta

by Anonymousreply 65July 6, 2024 1:18 AM

Jm J Bullock and Nedra Volz.

by Anonymousreply 66July 6, 2024 2:03 AM

*Gorney* Sorry, Karen Lynn!

by Anonymousreply 67July 6, 2024 2:05 AM

I saw a very moving performance of it at the Vatican Supper Club with His Holiness John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

by Anonymousreply 68July 6, 2024 7:00 AM

[quote]There is a film version, made for tv and directed by no less than Stanley Donen, starring horsehung Steven Weber from Wings and Romulus Linney's daughter Laura.

Horsehung? Guess you didn't see "Single White Female" or the L.A. production he did of "Hair", did ya?

by Anonymousreply 69July 6, 2024 2:03 PM

[quote] Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone.

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis!

by Anonymousreply 70July 6, 2024 2:23 PM

Did anyone else see the Donny and Marie version in Branson?

A tad creepy, no?

by Anonymousreply 71July 6, 2024 2:27 PM

R62 Okay, but I've seen some actors do very bad "readings." I even knew one who was dyslexic!

by Anonymousreply 72July 6, 2024 4:46 PM

Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton

by Anonymousreply 73July 6, 2024 4:47 PM

Carroll kept ad-libbing "dingbat" and "stifle" throughout. And their accents were atrocious!

by Anonymousreply 74July 6, 2024 4:48 PM

R47, She was not Sally Spectra at all -- maybe a trace of it in the don't ever send me that family newsletter again speech;

I saw it. I knew Darlene. I socialized with her. She was a broad, a class act, old school -- all the great things in life.

Taken too soon.

And she put B&B on the map.

by Anonymousreply 75July 6, 2024 7:01 PM

R75 = R44

by Anonymousreply 76July 6, 2024 7:09 PM


by Anonymousreply 77July 8, 2024 2:47 AM

I saw clips of Ali and Ryan and I wish I could have seen the entire performance. She still looks gorgeous.

by Anonymousreply 78July 8, 2024 3:14 AM

And here they are...

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by Anonymousreply 79July 8, 2024 3:15 AM

The film version is a dud because Steven Weber is as dull as dishwater. Not even Laura can save it.

by Anonymousreply 80July 8, 2024 3:29 AM
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