A.R. Gurney's Valentine From the Southampton Cultural Center

In Southampton
Dane DuPuis

The playwright A.R. Gurney is known for his revelations of upper class WASP culture in such works as “The Dining Room” (1982), “The Cocktail Hour” (1988), and, especially, his Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Love Letters.” That play consists of two privileged characters, each of whom reads letters he or she has received from the other over a lifetime. It has since seen dozens of productions throughout the United States and abroad and featured more than 75 notable performers.

Four East End actors will add their names to that long list when “Love Letters” opens its two-week run at Center Stage at Southampton Cultural Center on Friday. The show will be performed Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through Feb. 17.

“The premise is so simple,” said Michael Disher, who will direct the production. “And yet it’s so complicated. It’s not your usual pat love story where you know there’s going to be a happy ending. Because there isn’t. What it says is that through communication people can love for decades and decades in many different ways. It’s not just sexual love, and it’s not just love based on marriage. It is a love than can take many twists and turns and still endure. I felt it was a perfect Valentine’s Day offering.”

While Gurney insisted that the play not be over-rehearsed for fear of losing its spontaneity, Mr. Disher said that certain rhythms and tempos call for some rehearsal. “The trick for the actor is to have that familiarity with the script so that he or she is not just reading it, because, quite honestly, I don’t think anything is more boring than watching actors read a script.” 

The Center Stage production will feature Daniel Becker, Barbara-Jo Howard, John Leonard, and Catherine Maloney. Mr. Becker and Ms. Howard will be paired for two performances, as will Mr. Leonard and Ms. Maloney. On Sundays they will switch partners. Tickets are $25, $12 for students under 21. Dinner and theater packages will be available for $69.

More “Love Letters”

Coincidentally, the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton will present Thomas DeWolfe and Poppy Johnson in its own production of “Love Letters” on Wednesday at noon. Registration is at myrml.org or by calling 631-283-0774 extension 523.