Love, Again: There’s a saying about true love stories never really having an ending, and I thought about that in a very literal sense when I had the chance to see a production of Love Letters, the highly successful Broadway play by A.R Gurney that recently began a national tour with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal in the lead roles.
For those who may or may not remember, O’Neal and MacGraw starred in a rather famous movie called Love Story, from a phenomenon of a book by Erich Segal (it eventually sold 21 million copies) that came to the screen in 1970. It can be described as The Fault in Our Stars of its time, an all-out tearjerker that immediately created superstars of the two actors who played the protagonists (more due to their physical attractiveness than for their actual acting talents, it should be said).
Seeing the film as a youngster, I would have been hard-pressed to believe I would be watching the pair on a theatre stage 45 years later, obviously a bit weathered for wear, but surprisingly, still with touches of the chemistry that contributed to Love Story’s timeless appeal. As the characters in Love Letters sit at a desk on a barren stage reading correspondence from a relationship that spanned almost 50 years – while never actually looking at each other – it was easy to imagine the Melissa and Andy of the play as senior versions of the Oliver and Jenny of Love Story.
Which proves there’s something to be said for nostalgia. Looking around at the theatregoers, it was pretty clear what the target demographic was for Love Letters, which is essentially designed as a vehicle for past-their-prime stars to pull in audiences who remember them from their heyday. But the writing has its moments (the play, after all, was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1990) and for the veteran troupers O’Neal and MacGraw it provides some eerily reminiscent allusions that recall scenes from their career-making movie of decades ago.
If, as in the iconic line uttered by MacGraw in Love Story, “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” sometimes it can also mean never having to say goodbye.