She’s a poor little rich girl; he’s a steady-Eddie overachiever. Stick these two together at a fancy school where they tease and taunt and fall for each other, then follow their intimate correspondence for nearly 50 years. These letters comprise A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, making for an evening of classy class-conflict at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton on May 8 and 9. Three-time Tony Award nominee Tony Walton directs.
Terrance Fiore, an advertising exec-turned-actor, exudes confidence as the privileged Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. Fiore began acting in 2002 in Manhattan. He’s been in many plays, including The Diary of Anne Frank at Bay Street Theater, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and more. He’s also done films, including Dark Was the Night, which premiered at the Lincoln Center Scary Movie Festival.
Pia Lindström captivates as Melissa Gardner, a beautiful, troubled woman. Lindström, a former CBS correspondent, NBC news anchor and Emmy winner, currently hosts Pia Lindström Presents Sundays on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Lindström shows us all facets of Melissa, first the spoiled child, then the emotionally complicated woman. “In broadcast, you are very clear and precise,” says Lindström. “You say what you believe is accurate. You’re being yourself.” But on the stage, “You’re being someone else.” It’s been a challenge, she says, playing Melissa, the girl who has everything in the world but still feels hollow inside. Then there’s the play’s time span: “I have to go from being a girl in the fourth grade to [an older woman]…I definitely need [director] Tony Walton!”
Walton has been an invaluable asset, from the acting to the production design. Costuming provides helpful details for the audience, as the stage is mostly bare. The play spans decades; styles change. Walton is credited with costuming Lindström’s mother, the iconic Ingrid Bergman—“whom I adored,” Walton notes—in her Academy Award-winning performance in Murder on the Orient Express.
“[I was] thrilled to have been invited by Pia to become involved with these performances. Terry and Pia are wonderfully well-suited to their surprisingly demanding roles,” says Walton, “because they are seated with their scripts in hand, and there’s no conventional physical staging. However, each character moves through a full and complex lifetime, conveying the mercurial changes and unexpected developments that any one of us might experience in the course of our own lives.”
For sophisticated humor, there is no one better than Gurney for having fun with the WASP upper-middle class. He’s written more than 40 plays that touch on class privilege, including The Cocktail Hour, Scenes from American Life, The Dining Room and more. Love Letters was first performed in 1989. Many stars have played these roles on Broadway, including Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Burnett, James Earl Jones and Jason Robards.
Romance is inevitable as Melissa quips about Andrew’s buttoned-down attitude and tries to get him to loosen up, while he scoffs at her free-spirited nature. And while there is great wit, Gurney’s play is, fundamentally, a drama. It explores relationships, making difficult decisions and regret.
Both actors attend St. Ann’s Church. Fiore says that he came up with the idea of the church’s putting on a performance after seeing Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy in Love Letters on Broadway last fall. The production has involved their entire community. Proceeds will go to charities supported by the church: Dominican Sisters Family Health Service, East End Hospice and Maureen’s Haven.
Love Letters runs May 8 and 9 at at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, 2463 Main Street, Bridgehampton. Tickets will be available at the door with cash or card for $25. There is a wine and cheese reception after each performance. For more info, call 631-537-1527.