A relationship blossoms at the Marion Art Center’s ‘Love Letters’

Aug 2, 2023

MARION — A handwritten letter has a certain charm to it — just ask Cynthia Latham and Frank Mitchell, two actors playing the characters Melissa and Andrew in the Marion Art Center’s upcoming production of “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney.

“Love Letters” tells the story of Melissa and Andrew, two friends who exchange written letters over a lifetime, from childhood through high school and college, and as they build careers and families.

According to Director Jennifer Palmer, the show is about “a relationship that has formulated and blossomed and and changed shades all the way through.”

Latham described her character, Mellissa, as “someone with great potential, someone [who is] clearly very smart, [who] had the world at her feet. She could go wherever she wanted to go [but] was really lacking a family and support and anything that a young person needs to thrive and grow up without too many complications.”

Melissa is opposite Andrew, who Mitchell describes as “a little stuffy.”

“He's grown up with [the message] drilled into him that he's got to go to this school, [he’s got to] write letters to [his] family, and everything has to happen in a pre-planned way, unlike Melissa who is much more off-the-cuff,” said Mitchell. “But he does like the creativity of writing.”

Throughout the show, Latham and Mitchell read aloud from written letters — no memorization needed.

Latham described the show as a “different experience.”

“It's one thing to memorize your lines and be on stage and practice,” she said. “It's another thing to just be reading the lines … I had to figure out how to find my balance within just the reading of it because I couldn't really do anything else.”

For Mitchell, who said he has performed this show before, “Love Letters” is “a little bit more relaxing, knowing that you don’t have to memorize lines.”

Palmer said that through her direction she made sure that even though the cast is reading from a script, they are still connecting with the audience.

“It’s making sure [the performance] gets across the footlights,” she said. “It's getting the audience to start listening.”

And when the audience listens, Palmer hopes that they walk away from “Love Letters” with “a memory of some of their past times in close relationships.”

Latham is “fairly certain that [Love Letters] will send [the audience] on their own little adventure and remember someone who filled that role for them,” she said, referring to the relationship between Melissa and Andrew.

“Maybe they’ll go home and write a letter,” added Mitchell.

“Love Letters” will run for three weekends with three different casts.

See Latham and Frank in “Love Letters” on Aug. 4, 5 and 6; Pippa Asker and Donn Tyler will play the roles of Melissa and Andrew on Aug. 12 and 13; Susan Sullivan and Paul Kandarian will play the roles on Aug. 18, 19 and 20.

Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for Marion Art Center members and $23 for nonmembers.

To reserve tickets, visit marionartcenter.org/events/love-letters/.