This* is where I've been the last couple of weeks, directing this play for the Little Theatre Group. The LTG is one of only two English speaking theatres in Costa Rica, the other one being in Dominical (my other favorite part of the country). Amazingly, LTG has been in operation since 1949.
My God, that makes it older than ME.
We moved here 1/06, I found the LTG 2/06 and was thrilled to have it. LTG has been a direct "in" to a bunch of expats all doing something I know and love. Definitely helped me blend. (Like I blend.) Actually, that's the nice thing about expats: they are odd, so, yeah, I blend.
Directing this play was not planned. (What a surprise, eh? When was the last time I did something I planned?) The LTG had planned to do Proof, but that director couldn't find an actress for the lead role. I volunteered to do the part, but everyone pointed and laughed. Turns out the lead role is 25 years old and most recently played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Yeah, go ahead. Have your little fun. Anyway, Proof was out and LTG needed something fast to fill the spot.
I'd done Love Letters in Key West. It is brilliant and simple: two characters, Andy and Melissa, each sitting at a small desk about a foot apart, reading letters they'd written to each other over the course of 50 years. They don't read to each other, they read as though they were miles apart, which they were for most of their lives.
Very little rehearsal required, no lines to memorize, no elaborate set… voilà: pretty much instant theatre. But if you've never seen it, the concept is a hard sell, both to a theatre's BOD and to an audience. The thought of sitting for 90 minutes listening to two geezers (the characters, not the actors) read from a script just doesn't getcha goin'… unless you happen to be a fan of readers' theatre. Since I'd never directed anything here, my enthusiasm was suspect. Fortunately, LTG was desperate. The fact the play was nominated for a Pulitzer didn't hurt.
Practically every person who saw it loved it. I think the only ones who didn't were there the same night the audience was comprised of mostly teen ESL students who couldn't have cared less about the geezers. Their school payed for the "field trip" as they called it. They got to spend a Saturday night in downtown San José… it was a big time.
To even begin to enjoy Love Letters, you have to be a certain maturity level. These kids, um, weren't. They sat up in the balcony where I guess they thought they were invisible… they talked, they texted, they shoved each other… Of the 85 audience members that night, they made up 50. And I wanted to throttle each and every one of 'em. At intermission, I was so undemocratic in my request that they shut the f–k up for the second half, they all left. Thank you. Sadly, that kinda distraction takes the edge off for the rest of the audience. Like going to the movies and having someone behind you chatting… How can you enjoy it?
If you saw it any other night, you enjoyed a perfect evening of theatre. The writing is so, so good. I would say "brilliant" but that adjective is so overused (mostly by me), it's lost its lustre. But it would be appropriate here. Even though I saw the play over and over again, it never failed to make me laugh out loud, to bring me to (actual) tears.
The trick with Love Letters is to make sure the players are familiar enough with the script to know where each letter is going and not stumble over the words, yet not so familiar it's rote or requires acting. Acting is out in this play. Not to belabor the point, but if you are an actor, this is an
excellent, exhilarating exercise in listening, being in the moment,
which is the heart of acting.
There were three different casts, each had three or four rehearsals. Funny thing: even when an Andy's or Melissa's "take" (subtext, motive in acting jargon) on a line was the same as the other two actors', it was different… Three different casts, three different plays. It was fantastic, hugely satisfying for me and for all six players.
There is as much joy in reciting beautifully written words as there is in hearing them. It is amazing to find, even as the reader, knowing the story, you can still be swept away. That is as magical for an actor as it is for an audience. If you get a chance to see Love Letters (or read it in a workshop or production), don't pass it up.
Some other stuff has been happening since I've been "away": good news on the immigration bill, got a job, might be moving to a new house (in this country)… oh, yes, lots happening. More to be revealed. Life is good.
The Little Theater Group presents the work Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p. m., and Sundays at 2: 30 p.m., in the Laurence Olivier Theater, adjacent to the Sala Garbo.
Love Letters by A. R. Gurney, is an intimate journey through correspondence that the two friends maintained throughout their lives, which speaks through their marriages, frustrations and happy moments.