There is a long-standing joke in theater that all actors have either worked together, drank together or slept together. It is like an Appalachian coal town in that regard, and the statement holds true fairly constantly, especially in community theater circles.
The quirk-filled family nature of community theater, much like its East Coast cousin, however, produces successful relationships. That fact will be on display starting this week with Lakewood Playhouse's staging of "Love Letters" by A.R. Gurney. This production will have nine different Puget Sound acting couples in real life playing out roles as couples on stage.
The romantic, and periodically brutally frank play, centers on the tales of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner, both born to wealth and position. They are childhood friends who started with simple birthday party thank-you notes and summer camp postcards but continued through the span of their lives. Their written “affair” continues on until their twilight years and culminates in the most beautiful exchange of all as dusk arrives. The staged reading takes place through a series of those letters as the time passes. This show contains some adult themes and language, so parents might want to leave the kids at home.
The couples starring in this two-person show are: Jen Davis and Alex Smith, Jen Ankrum and Blake York, Sharry O’Hare and Micheal O’Hara, Stephanie and Jarod Nace, Terri and Robert Puett, Aya and Randy Clark, Samantha Camp and Bruce Story, Rachel and Alan Wilkie, Bethany Bevier and Nic Olson. All met through theater, but rarely appear on stage together since they find themselves cast in different shows at different theaters, so they might be at rehearsals that occur across town.
“This will be the most time some have spent together in weeks,” Lakewood Managing Artistic Director John Munn said. “This has literally become their ‘date night.’”
The one exception is the duo of O’Hare and O’Hara, who are theater juggernauts as individuals and an acting blitzkrieg together. Married for 23 years now, this acting couple has performed “Love Letters” at Lakewood and Tacoma Little Theatre as well as at benefit shows from time to time. But that does not mean their performances this time will be repeats of those times.
“Sharry and I always find different nuances in it,” O'Hara said.
And there are plenty of nuggets in the script for couples to personalize their own performances based on their own relationships, an aspect that drew Munn to considering the show for the theater’s summer line-up.
“It can be a completely different perspective each time,” he said. “I really wasn’t the ‘director’ as much as I was giving some guidelines and insights,” he said. “I am basically landing a plane of talent.”
“Love Letters” runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays, Aug. 10-26. Tickets are $15. Videos of the theater couples chatting about the show and their lives are available at Lakewoodplayhouse.org. Tickets are available there as well. The theater is located at 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. in Lakewood. Information is also available by calling (253) 588-0042.