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‘Love Letters’ gets loving treatment on Lone Tree stage

Lifelong friendship explored in play by A.R. Gurney

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“Love Letters,” A.R. Gurney’s intimate look at a lifelong friendship — back in the day when we actually wrote letters as a major means of communication — is Lone Tree Arts Center’s first theatrical production for the 2017-2018 season, opening Nov. 9, with direction by the widely experienced Bruce Sevy.

Last July, Sevy cast well-known Denver actors Candy Brown and Mark Rubald as Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. He said he had directed the work previously, but only in the way it’s frequently presented: with a different couple reading the words each night (sometimes not trained actors).

Both Brown and Rubald are well-suited to their parts, Sevy said: Rubald’s father was a lawyer and his family somewhat like Gurney’s (and like Andrew’s), and Brown spent lots of time in New York and understands Melissa’s lifestyle.

Sevy is excited over the potential of this skillful pair playing the roles every night — with an actual set and stage lighting — instead of just a table and two chairs.

Rehearsals start on Halloween and opening night is Nov. 9 in the Lone Tree Arts Center’s Event Hall, a space that allows for an intimate set design and connection with the audience. (The hall was originally created with the former Lone Tree Theatre Company in mind, so it is designed to have lights and sound equipment installed as needed, although that company unfortunately discontinued before LTAC opened.)

Now “semi-retired,” Sevy started work with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Denver Center Theatre Company in 1983, serving as associate artistic director, casting director and director of new play development, as well as directing a number of productions there, including “All My Sons,” “Animal Crackers,” “A Little Night Music” and the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Pierre.” He speaks fondly of “lifelong friends” made at the DCPA.

“I always wanted to be a director — even in grade school,” he said. He grew up in California’s Central Valley/Stockton/San Francisco/Santa Barbara, where he was active in high school theater and then educated at the Pacific Conservatory, followed by a staff position there after graduation. He next competed for admission to the American Conservatory in San Francisco and “apprenticed myself to the director.”

Seattle’s busy theatre scene was the next base of operations — “I flew a lot,” he recalls — and then a call came from Denver …

Impressed with the welcome experienced from Lone Tree’s staff (he had been acquainted with director Lisa Rigsby Peterson since her work at the Denver Center), he is looking forward to rehearsing onsite, “in this nice intimate space” (not often possible). “We can hang the lights” (early). But, he doesn’t “want to overproduce.”

“I am really enjoying the process,” he added.

The story traces correspondence between the properly reared children of East Coast upper crusts — where invitations and thank you notes were a given. They start with a first 7-year-old’s note from Andrew, who always loved writing letters, to the less-enthusiastic Melissa. While the pair never connects romantically, they remain lifelong friends and the audience tunes in along the way to two quite different lives — and ongoing mutual support and sympathy where appropriate.

Sevy commented that playwright A. R. Gurney, who wrote a number of his scripts based on his well-off family and growing up in Buffalo, played the Andrew role first, when it appeared in New York in 1989. (Gurney recently passed away.)

“He was a good writer,” Sevy observed.

If you go

“Love Letters,” by A.R. Gurney, plays Nov. 9 to 19 in the Event Hall at Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St., Lone Tree. Performances: Evenings: Nov. 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19; Matinees: Nov. 11, 12, 15, 16, 18. Tickets: $35-$45, lonetreeartscenter.org, 720-509-1000 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday).

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