‘Love Letters’ shows a journey

The actors in the play have known each other for decades.



In a world dictated by computer technology, written correspondence has become a thing of the past. With instant messaging, e-mail and text messaging, the letter has become unnecessary and even inconvenient. But these new forms of communication lack the intimacy and sincerity that comes with putting pen to paper.

“Love Letters,” which opens Friday at the Youngstown Playhouse, takes us back to a time — not that long ago — when people shared their lives and emotions through written correspondence. The play by A.R. Gurney is an intimate look at the relationship of two friends through their lifelong correspondence.

“Love Letters” chronicles the relationship of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner. The two grew up together in an upper middle class New England town. Though their lives took many different turns, they continued their letters for more than 50 years.

At first, the two exchange notes and Valentines in grade school; that is soon replaced by letters and postcards. Through their letters, the audience watches them grow and change.

Joseph Scarvell and Sis Soller form the cast of the play. Both are veterans of the theater and have appeared in hundreds of plays.

Scarvell and Soller met nearly 50 years ago when they were cast opposite each other in “Brigadoon” at the Playhouse in the summer of 1959, and have remained friends ever since. Scarvell said he had no previous experience with “Love Letters,” but when Soller contacted him to do the show, he thought it would be fun.

Scarvell also serves as director of the production, which is performed as a staged reading. The two actors will be seated on a platform, each at their own desk.

The two never interact with each other — no touching, no eye-contact. They take turns reading their letters to each other.

Scarvell and Soller work hard to bring their characters alive through their voices. Since the letters span 50 years, the actors change their voices to portray their characters at different ages.

“Love Letters” is being produced as dinner theater in the Moyer Room of the Playhouse. The dinner will be served before the play in an informal setting with food prepared by chef Anthony DelFratte.

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