How do you spell romance? Try ‘L-O-V-E L-E-T-T-E-R-S’

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

“Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney is a much-loved play that follows the lives of two lovers whose lives intersect and divide over time.

The play is popular with theater groups because it’s simple. Two actors stand on stage, reading the script, which is built around the “love letters” between the two characters.

Southington Community Theatre is tackling the play about two upper middle class people where private schools are a given living their lives thinking about what could have been.

Three sets of actors will be performing the piece over three nights.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, Jared Watterworth and Carolyn Ciarrochi will take the stage. On Friday, Feb. 23, Tony Lamberto and Patricia Hackett will perform. And the show will close on Saturday, Feb. 24 with Mark Moyle and Felicia Felix taking the spotlight.

The Observer caught up with Watterworth and Ciarrochi to talk about the show via email.

OBSERVER: The characters in Love Letters are of a particular social station and live in a particular time. So what makes their tale of love transcend social classes and time period?

JARED WATTERWORTH: Love is timeless. I don’t think you need to look into it any further than that. People who come see this show will instantly connect with its themes, as they’ll all remember someone for whom they’ve shared a relationship with on this type of level. It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, or where you’re from.

CAROLYN CIARROCHI: The relationship between Melissa and Andy felt very familiar, very early in my first reading of the script. Yes, their story begins in the 30s and they are both from affluent families, but less important than the details of their background is the fact that it’s shared. Their relationship begins when they are 5 years old. While their lives periodically intermingle over the next 50-ish years, Melissa and Andy have a unique bond in that they’ve borne witness to each others’ lives since the beginning. As we go through these private, intimate letters, we too bear witness to self-absorbed, disapproving parents,  unrequited love – first on the part of one, then the other, jealousy, hope, disappointment, frustration, miscommunications and missed connections.

O: The tale is told through “love letters,” hence the title. What do you like about how A.R. Gurney is able to use this device to provide a window into the lives of this character?

J: A few of Andrew’s (my character’s) letters in the play communicate his thoughts on letters as highly personal, something that can never die. I love the fact that having written these words down as a script, he can make them so much more impactful just by using letters as the device in which the characters deliver them. However, I do wonder how this play will be received by younger and future generations who really don’t use letters as a form of communication.

C: My grandfather met my grandmother when they were both teenagers, at a house party in the early 1940s. For my Pop, it was love at first sight. They married shortly before he deployed with the Navy for WWII, and they conducted much of their early relationship through letters. When she passed away, Pop filled notebooks with letters to Nan every day for 10 years until he went to be with her. Those love letters are priceless. Today, we meet on dating apps, we observe each other’s “best lives” on social media, we have “The Bachelor” and other reality shows with confessionals. We are a nosy culture. Melissa and Andy’s letters are intimate, they feel authentic, and I truly get lost in them every time I read them.

O: How important is it for you as actors to have a creative chemistry to help pull the tale off since it’s just the two of you on stage with a script in hand.

J: I don’t think this play can thrive artistically without the two actors having 100 percent compatibility. Normally in a play, you have a large cast to play off of, many connections to explore. Here, you’re totally connected to one person. Both actors are really working together to give the audience this single interpretation of this extraordinary relationship. Emotions, timing, inflections…you really need to be in sync. I think Amanda (Savio, our director) has done a wonderful job not only directing a show with minimal director’s notes, but with casting three really powerful duos. We all bring something different to this show, but share a common theme in that we’re three very harmonious duets.

C: We share this story with the audience without the benefit of lots of devices actors love, no props, no real movement, no physical contact or even really eye contact. It’s an intimidating challenge. In order to bring the audience with us, I think we have to cultivate an encyclopedic understanding of our characters, their backgrounds and motivations, habits, personal tics, what their buttons are and who can push them. If you truly know Melissa, everything about her affection for Andy feels natural and truthful, and vice versa. I’ve been really lucky to partner with Jared for this show; he shares my affection for these characters and their beautiful story, and I think that really comes through in our performance.

Southington Community Theatre will present A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” Thursday, Feb. 22, Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, 121 Pleasant St., Southington. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Just For You Gift Shoppe, 979 Meriden-Waterbury Rd., Plantsville, The Music Shop, 405 Queen St., Southington, and Domino’s, 200 Main St., Southington. Tickets are also available online at https://squareup.com/store/SouthingtonCommunityTheatre.

Carolyn Ciarrochi, left, and Jared Watterworth perform in ‘Love Letters’ next Thursday in the Southington Community Theatre production of the A.R. Gurney play.