The glitz and the glamour may be missing when theater companies present play readings, but Vicki High, director of Chicago Heights’ Drama Group’s reading of the drama “Love Letters,” appreciates what comes to the forefront.
“You get to concentrate on the characters,” she said. “More than looking at how beautiful the set is or how it all works, you get to concentrate on the human beings and how they are acting.”
Running for one night only on April 6 at Drama Group’s Studio Theatre, “Letters” chronicles the relationship and correspondence between Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, who met as youngsters in boarding school and chronicled their changes, trials and tribulations throughout their lives through letters and cards for nearly five decades.
Penned by American playwright and author A.R. Gurney, “Letters” made its debut in 1988. A year later, the play made its Broadway debut, starring Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst and received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for drama.
Over the course of the near quarter century that followed, a myriad of actors, including small-screen couples such as “Dallas’” Larry Hagman and Linda Gray to “Family Ties” Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross to “Person of Interest’s” Michael Emerson and Carrie Preston, have taken on the roles of Ladd and Gardner onstage.
“It’s about a friendship that endures over a long period of time,” High said. “They’re very interesting people. Very different. (Ladd) is very conservative and (Gardner) is very artistic.”
For Drama Group’s reading of “Letters,” High selected two sets of actors: Cody Czmyr from Park Forest and Kaleigh-Michelle Wood portray Ladd and Gardner as youngsters, and Andy Leahy from Chicago Heights and Linda Hart from Homewood assume the roles in their adult years.
“The first act is pretty much the couple in their school years up until the time they graduate college and start into their real world lives, and the second act is them as adults, so I thought ‘why not just split them up?’” High said. “I thought it would be fun, and I tried to find people who would complement each other (in terms of appearance).”
Drama Group’s next production will take them to Bloom Theatre, 110 10th St., Chicago Heights, for a production of the musical “The Wiz,” scheduled to run May 3-5.