'Love Letters' opens Friday at The Main Stage
Published 2:31 pm, Thursday, February 3, 2011
The play follows the two life-long friends -- some would say soulmates -- and the unconditional love they share, as evidenced in their written communications over several decades. Real-life married couple Scott Bryce, a Westport native, and Jodi Stevens will bring the characters to life at The Main Stage beginning this evening.
"Even though the two in the play are not married, they very much have a long-term, committed relationship," said Stevens, a musician and classically-trained Broadway actress who comes from an entertainment family. Her father was a set designer, and her mother was a band leader.
"There is an un-formal connection or bond. Our marriage, our relationship, our history can easily translate into the circumstances that are presented in the play," she said.
Stevens has appeared on the Broadway stage in Jekyll & Hyde and Urban Cowboy, and she played the role of Marlene Dietrich in the La Jolla production of Barry Manilow's Harmony. Stevens and Bryce have a 4-year-old son, Jackson.
Bryce said the play is well-crafted; although there is little action on stage, it never gets dull. "The arc of their lives is so clear that you go on a journey with them. It's like watching a play and reading a book at the same time."
A Staples High School graduate, Bryce's theatrical lineage goes back three generations. He is a film and television actor best known for his portrayal of Craig Montgomery on the soap opera "As the World Turns."
He offered more insights into Melissa and Andrew's relationship.
"You go on a visual journey with them through their letters to each other. It's a play about discovery and what is love, how big is love and what defines love," Bryce said. "The play is a Valentine, it's a beautiful Valentine."
Kevin Connors, the co-founder and artistic director of Music Theatre of Connecticut and the director of "Love Letters," said he tends to choose plays that are character and relationship driven. The relationship in Love Letters is heightened for the audience by the intimacy of the black box theater, which has only 45 seats.
The proximity between the actors and the audience allows the viewers to really feel like they are a part of the story. "You're the third friend in this relationship," Connors said.
"There aren't many (performing) spaces where you can sit 10 feet from a Broadway actor and an Emmy-nominated actor," he said.
Bryce said the love between the two characters is profound, and he draws from the script an important message about the need to stay connected to loved ones and not take them for granted.
"We think we're connected. We're not. We send sound bites to each other," Bryce said, referring to text messages, Facebook comments and Tweets.
"In a letter we actually think. It's not `Hi, how are ya. See ya at 10.' They (Melissa and Andrew) exchange their souls. It's something we're missing in our lives," Bryce said.
Stevens called letter-writing "a dying art form."
Connors said he thinks the play is meant to change people's perspective and show them what's really important in life.
"There's this bond that the characters had since they were kids, and I think everybody has that person. I think everybody will identify with one or the other of them and maybe with elements of both (characters)," Connors said.
"I think everybody in their life has this go-to person," Connors said, someone who knows you almost better than you know yourself and loves you warts and all.
"We need to remember that in our daily lives,"he said. "Don't miss it. Take the opportunity to celebrate whatever that relationship is.
"I want people to leave the theater and go home and call that person in their life or tell them, `Maybe I haven't said this to you but I just don't know what my life would have been like if you hadn't been there for all of these milestones,' " Connors said.
After every performance at the Main Stage, not just for "Love Letters," the audience is invited to stay for a wine-and-cheese gathering. "The actors come out and you can talk with them. It adds to the intimacy and the experience," Connors said.
"Love Letters" runs from this evening through Feb. 20, with four performances each weekend: Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 3 p.m.
Contact The Main Stage at 203-454-3883 or select seats online at www.musictheatreofct.com.