Laguna Woods Theater Guild to bring a little romance to the table – Orange County Register

Valentine’s Day has its supporters and detractors, but no one will want to miss “Love Letters,” the Laguna Woods Theater Guild’s February 16 homage to the holiday.

Written in 1988, the play earned AR Gurney a finalist spot for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Since then, a long list of top actors has played the two leads, including Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, Liza Minnelli and Desi Arnaz Jr., and Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones

The play’s format is as unique as its story of two people who meet at the age of 8 and begin a written correspondence that has lasted more than 50 years. In the letters they tell the ups and downs of their lives, periods of calm and drama, love and heartbreak, triumphs and losses.

The actors read the letters aloud and occasionally make phone calls while sitting side by side on a sparse stage – just two desks and the suggestion of two rooms. With faces turned to the audience, they don’t look at each other except towards the end.

“It’s a love story – romantic and between friends,” says director Kate Jacobs. “The story touches people’s hearts.”

In the Theater Guild production of Love Letters, Al Glover plays Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Robin LaValley is Melissa Gardner. Both actors are new to the theater guild but not to acting.

“It’s challenging to portray 60 years of a person’s life sitting in a chair,” Glover said. “It’s a really interesting story about two very different characters.”

The role of Melissa is LaValley’s first with the guild.

“This kind of performance is difficult because you’re sitting and you’re not looking at yourself,” she said. “It’s always, ‘How do we do this? How will the audience get the best out of the show?’”

LaValley said that in previous roles she established what she calls “a beat,” how to unfold a story from beginning to end.

“Comedy depends on the beat,” she said. “This is where you draw on emotions — by responding to what your friend wrote or by expressing your own emotions.”

She also dissected the role, she said, first putting herself in the shoes of an elementary school student and gradually growing up with her. “The hard part is not over-presenting that.”

LaValley, an 11-year-old villager, has been acting in theater, television and summertime since she was a child, she said. She received her BA in Theater Arts from Cal Poly Pomona.

Glover has a BA in Acting from UC Irvine, where he shifted his interest from acting to directing, working with community theater companies across the United States

The theater guild presents “Love Letters” in a dinner theater setting. To do this, the original screenplay had to be shortened a bit, said director Jacobs. Given the play’s time frame, she also updated some terms and vocabulary.

“That made it more understandable, but the main ideas are still there,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs himself played the role of Melissa in the Theater Guild’s inaugural production of Love Letters in 2017. The 20-year-old villager earned a BA in theater and a PhD in psychology and has been active in the theater community here for 18 years.

Before the piece, Debbi Blackwell Cook will sing numbers from the Great American Songbook. She is also an actress who has appeared on Broadway, on television, and in illustrious venues such as the Kennedy Center and Ford Theater.

“Love Letters” will be performed in Clubhouse 5. Doors open at 5:30pm. Dinner is at 6pm. A hot buffet dinner includes chicken piccata or salmon, rice pilaf, roasted vegetables, salad, dessert, water and coffee, and a glass of wine. A GRF bar will be available.

Tickets cost $45. The reservation period has been extended to Monday 13 February. There will be no ticket sales at the box office.

Buy tickets online at, under Upcoming Shows. If you have any questions, email Barbara Powell at Laguna Woods Theater Guild to bring a little romance to the table – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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