‘Love Letters’ chronicles relationship of a lifetime

SEQUIM — Melissa and Andrew are just kids, carefree kids, when they become sweethearts.

Then they’re separated — but only physically. Over 50 years, they keep in touch and bravely reveal their hopes, dreams and disappointments, via handwritten letters.

This is the story of “Love Letters,” A.R. Gurney’s play about two people joining minds and hearts by way of pen and paper.

This Valentine’s Day, we get to hear Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III read their missives aloud, as Olympic Theatre Arts presents “Love Letters” for one night only.

Roger Briggs and his wife of 45 years, Sharon, portray Andrew and Melissa through all their travails and confidences, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Tickets to the production, on the stage inside OTA’s Gathering Hall, are $15 including beverages and sweets; a wine bar will also be open for the evening.

Roger and Sharon have offered “Love Letters” in coffee houses, theaters and even banks across the Northwest. They first performed it in 1993 in Richland, and two years later won third prize with it in the Kaleidoscope theater competition in Spokane.

When asked for his favorite moment in “Love Letters,” Roger said it comes at the top, when Andy accepts an invitation to Melissa’s birthday party. This is back when they are in elementary school; Andy calls his girlfriend “the lost princess of Oz.”

“It’s a happy and promising time in their youth,” Roger said. Life grows much more complicated, of course.

The “lost princess of Oz” reference reappears at the end, in a letter Andy writes to Melissa’s mother. That letter “fixes Andy’s and Melissa’s relationship indelibly in his and in our minds,” said Roger.

For Sharon, a favorite moment comes at the end of the first act, when Melissa and Andy have gone off to different colleges. They’re still writing to each other, but she urges him to pick up the telephone and call. Andy, however, hates the phone.

When he writes to ask Melissa for a date, she gleefully writes back: “While I was in the middle of reading your last letter, Jack Duffield telephoned from Amherst and asked me for a weekend up there. So I said yes before I got to where you asked me. Sorry, sweetie, but it looks like the telephone wins in the end.”

Many twists and turns follow for Melissa and Andy. Regret, hope and love are expressed, exquisitely, in their written words. Much is said between the lines, too.

Roger and Sharon Briggs, in the announcement of their “Love Letters” performance, call this play “a theatrical valentine for and from the heart.”

Reservations for Tuesday’s event are advisable, since seating is limited in the Gathering Hall; to make those, visit www.OlympicTheatreArts.org or phone the box office at 360-683-7326 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

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Matthew Nash/ Olympic Peninsula News Group

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