HUDSON -- At its heart, “Love Letters” is about connection.

The play, premiering at The Phipps on Friday, Feb. 5, follows the lasting love affair of two childhood friends whose written words keep them in touch while separated.

The work is rooted in the human need to connect, Director Tami Provencher said.

“Connection with each other, and how important it is to have those connections as we’re going through life,” she said. “How they really, those connections, become lifelines.”

As audiences follow along with the story of Andrew and Melissa, she hopes that point is reaffirmed for them.

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“I am hoping that the audience will go away with a renewed sense of yes, those connections are important. Maybe I’ll make a connection. Maybe I’ll reconnect with somebody who I haven’t been able to see for these last six months,” she said.

She also hopes the performance itself serves as a moment of connection as an audience.

“There’s something about experiencing that with other people that enhances the experience,” she said.

The Phipps has two sets of casts for the play. Andrew is played by Gary Jader and Brad Pappas. Melissa is played by Jennifer Allton and Michelle Storm.

The play unfolds in the letters the characters have written, making for a unique format. The story is far more moving and engrossing than she originally expected, Provencher said.

“It’s one of those wonderful pieces that really takes on a life of its own,” she said.

The script grabbed Jader from the first readthrough.

“I’m just reading along and all of a sudden, I’m involuntarily sobbing,” he said.

As a writer himself, Jader appreciates the love his character has for the medium.

“There are some passages in there that are just so powerful about writing,” he said.

Allton said she enjoys the different facets of Melissa, who is sometimes funny and sometimes not always likable.

“She is a piece of work,” Allton said. “She had a not very easy childhood and that translated to a not very easy adulthood. But she always has a very honest approach to her relationships and what sees and I enjoy that forthright attitude.”

Allton enjoys the humanity displayed in this relationship that is not always easy.

“I think it’s important to be reminded that relationships and humans aren’t perfect, and this a great story that really digs into that,” she said.

She hopes audiences will get something from that.

“To grant themselves a little bit of grace to realize that the people aren’t perfect, but still worthy of love and kindness. To grant that to themselves and to other people,” she said.

The three are no strangers to the love and connection that can come through letters.

Allton still has some love letters from an old college relationship. The two are still friends today.

“It’s a good reminder of that open heart that you had, before life gets in the way and teaches you otherwise,” she said. “It’s a good reminder to go back to that and realize that’s a good thing to have.”

Provencher and Jader have both kept up pen pal relationships.

“To share in some depth with another human being is so cool, and I wish everybody had a pen pal,” Jader said.

Provencher began writing to her Finnish pen pal when she was 10 years old, and much like the play’s characters, the two have kept up a correspondence ever since, spanning 40 years of high school angst, marriages and careers.

“Love Letters” runs through Sunday, Feb. 14.

The Phipps is continuing to follow COVID-19 safety precautions. The theater will be at 25% capacity for performances, with seat groupings socially distanced at least 6 feet apart. Masks are required.

Share the love

Share your own love letters or those from ancestors for publication in whole or part in the Star-Observer. Photos, scans or transcripts of letters can be sent to Rebecca Mariscal at rmariscal@orourkemediagroup.com.